Republicans keep complaining about the size of government and want to reduce government spending, but they refuse to consider the area of government spending that can be reduced the easiest: defense spending.
During the years between 1955 and 2013, our defense spending has tripled (adjusted for inflation to 2013 dollars) when you take into consideration funding for Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems to me hard to justify such expenditures after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Who are all those tanks, ships and advanced aircraft going to be used against anyway?
Certainly, one argument made by Republicans can be that defense spending helps the economy, but when you look at it thoroughly, defense spending’s impact on the economy is much weaker than other government expenditures that could be substituted. First, consider that much of defense spending is incurred on the maintenance of overseas bases in 175 countries. Local merchants in such countries make a lot of money providing basic labor, such as cleaning on the bases and cooking and operating the PX’s and other facilities. Who do you think are the waiters in officers’ clubs? Who does the laundry? Very unlikely that it is Americans exported from our country to those foreign bases. Who earns all of the rent from apartments off base in those countries? Who makes all of the money from restaurants off base in those countries? I am sure you get the idea that if most of really unnecessary bases were eliminated and the money saved was spent in the US, that money
would go instead to reduce government spending even more or could be used to help education, policing and other projects that now have very limited funding.
Second, while money spent on military equipment goes directly into our economy, the actual use of the military equipment itself does nothing to help the economy; it produces nothing; it helps no one improve their economic status. Consider, on the other hand, how money spent on providing better schools, better roads and bridges, and better teachers, not only puts money directly into the economy, but each of those items also produces other effects that benefit the economy. Better educated students, because of better schools and teachers, fill jobs that are now unfilled and relieve our government from spending money on welfare and other benefits for the poor. Better roads and bridges allow people to move more easily and improve the economic welfare of the municipalities they serve.
So, if you are a Republican and want to reduce government spending, look where you can get the most bang for your tax buck; it’s in reducing military spending and diverting the money, instead, into our domestic economy.
George L. Barnett lives in Micanopy.