By ROGER SIMON
The defense budget for 2012 was more than $600 billion, which is nearly twice as much as the rest of the planet combined. We outspend China, the next biggest military power in the world, by about 6-to-1.
Maybe this wild spending would not be so bad if it bought us quick and easy victories over ill-armed opponents. But it doesn’t. We have poured more than a trillion dollars into the war in Afghanistan over the past 11 years — to say nothing of more than 2,000 precious U.S. lives lost — and we are still fighting there.
Some say this is good for the U.S. economy because it means we have to buy more and more bullets and bombs and drones, but personally I’d rather buy more liver transplants for the 47 percent.
Yet nobody in Washington is talking about serious cuts to the defense budget. On the contrary, they are talking about ways to avoid making serious cuts to the defense budget.
In the meantime, the government borrows more and more money, which means it keeps bumping up against the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling was invented as a way to keep Congress from spending too much, but it doesn’t work.
So we keep raising the debt ceiling. We raised it 18 times under Ronald Reagan, four times under Bill Clinton, seven times under George W. Bush and three times, as of August 2011, under Barack Obama.
As Obama points out, the debt ceiling does not allow Congress to spend more money. It merely allows the government to pay the bills Congress has already racked up.
In just a few weeks, we will face another crisis over the debt ceiling. It shouldn’t be a crisis, but politics will make it a crisis.
It’s a broken system. It’s why Americans hate politics.
Late on Jan. 1, President Obama briefly addressed the nation from a nearly empty White House briefing room. “I think, hopefully, in the new year we’ll focus on is seeing if we can put a package like this together with a little bit less drama, a little less brinksmanship, not scare the heck out of folks quite as much,” he said.
A little bit less drama? Drama is what government is about these days. Drama is the only thing our elected leaders seem good at.
So you bring the socks. I’ll bring the cowpies.
Roger Simon is POLITICO’s chief political columnist.