50 Years Of Government Spending, In 1 Graph

Peace Does Not Begin With A Larger Military

One of the big difference between President Obama and Governor Romney (that has stayed different during these strange changes in Governor Romney’s political stands during the presidential debates) has been about what are our military and defense spending means for our nation and the world.

Romney believes that by having a larger defense, we will be able to create more peace. Might makes right. But does it?

On a smaller scale, I think of neighbors and fences. The higher I make my fence and the more barking dogs I have behind it, the less likely my neighbors are going to believe I want to talk to them or listen to them or not attack them. Yes, they may stay out of my yard. Yes, they may smile at me. But they won’t trust me.

Of course, countries aren’t people although they are run by people and overthrown occasionally by people. And if we want to grow peace and democracy, which both candidates espouse, we need to build trust even from people we don’t like.

In a less touchy-feely sense, our defense budget is already huge.

50 Years Of Government Spending, In 1 Graph
Source: Office of Management and Budget
Credit: Lam Thuy Vo / NPR

Defense spending has shrunk in the last 50 years, but it continues to be the largest single component of our spending although clearly Social Security is not far behind. However, it is a bad thing to have a country that focuses more of it’s income to take care of our elderly instead of building up a military for the theory that might brings peace? And when compared to other countries, we are overspending on defense as though we are very afraid.

Defence Budgets and Expenditures
Comparative Defense Statistics – Defense Budgets and Expenditures from IISS.org with a detailed explanation here.

Why is it not enough?

Our government is constantly being chastised by conservatives (and rightly so at times) for not using money wisely and well, yet the Pentagon spent $11 million dollars to investigate the use of psychics until 1995 when it was deemed a failure after 20 years, or $238 billion on F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which are experiencing severe technological problems because they were rushed into production, not to mention we already had the best fighter planes in the world plus, unmanned aircraft are taking more missions.

I don’t understand the disconnect between a scaled-back government and military spending, which seems like one of the worst offenders. The Department of Defense should learn how to use money wisely, too. The sequestration (i.e., automatic budget cuts explained here) is going to be learning to turn the lights off when they walk out of the Pentagon with the amount of money this department throws away as well as with the ending of two wars. Yet, Romney believes the military needs more money, we all need tax cuts, and to balance the budget, we should cut the programs that help our elderly and poor because that’s the kind of country that seems to have great priorities.

Priority debates aside, what am I missing with his budget plan on defense?  Because the overall picture of Romney’s defense plan seems to be: The United States Department of Defense is allowed to spend money on things we don’t need or plan to ever use because in the end all this might is really to bring peace to the world, which we are saying out loud, but will still work against our enemies.

While the some people like defense contractors may want the world to work this way, it doesn’t. Peace does not begin with guns, controlling the government spending does not begin with having more money to spend, and prioritizing building new ships over the veterans, who once manned the retiring ones, is not an ideal of the country I love.

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Can The Real Republicans Please Stand Up?

photo source

The Republican party seems to be tearing itself apart. I haven’t been a Republican since 1999, but I still read David Brooks’ column in the New York Times and I have many Republicans that I love and respect even if we disagree.

I am currently a progressive, which means I don’t have a party — only a caucus. I, along with many people, don’t believe that a political party determines my values, ideas and desires for my country. I look for the candidate, which is close enough to the issues that are most important at the time. It is the best I can do as I have only ever found one person who had almost a mirror image of my value system and was running for anything. In other words, I could have been persuaded. The Republicans could have seized the moment. Progressives get angry at Democrats. Plus, the Independents. The grumpy Democrats. The lazy Republicans. There were many votes out there.

Alas, the Republican party seems to be making the same mistakes it made in 2008. The winner of the primary is a moderate Republican who isn’t allowed (or isn’t choosing) to run on their record. McCain, and now Romney, have distanced themselves from any political choices that helped people if they weren’t within very narrow party lines. No talk of immigration for McCain and a complete 180 on Romney Care. They both chose extremist for running mates who have no plans or ridiculous plans for the country, respectively.

I feel like yelling: Can the real Republicans please stand up? The fiscal conservatives only have a voice if they are also social conservatives. The compassionate conservatives don’t seem to get a say at all anymore. What is the Republican base? Is it “we will never have the elite, smart people on our side” or “47% of people will never take responsibility for themselves“? When did Republicans stop believing in intelligence and education and science? When did Republicans want to stop serving the Veterans, the elderly and the poor children in American? Or even, when did paying back a loan become a sign of laziness and irresponsibility? The Republican party’s own vice presidential nominee could not give his convention speech without lying. How is that leading a political party?

Perhaps, I should be happy that the Republicans are imploding, but a one party system isn’t good for our country, and I love our country. Yes, I want Obama to win the White House, but I’ve also seen what a failed party looks like in Congress. A party, whose primary purpose is to defeat a president rather than support a people and the country, does nothing. For 2 years, the House of Representatives has failed. They have voted almost 3 dozen times to repeal a healthcare bill that was never going to happen when our unemployment rate was 8.2%.

I feel like the Republican party is in trouble when the presidential nominee isn’t allowed to be themselves. A party that once elected presidents like Lincoln, who chose the country over the Southern states, and Eisenhower, who balanced the budget 3 times in part by not giving into pressure to lower taxes or raise defense spending, needs to be more than ideological pandering to an ever-narrowing base. Nowadays, those presidents would be called “RINOs” or “Republicans In Name Only.” How sad not just for them but for all of us who rely on a two-party system. The Republican party, from the stars to the base, must move beyond rhetorical and into reality where compromise is not a dirty word and our country comes first.

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