Defense spending has not gotten much discussion in the debate about the Congress’s fiscal cliff. Why?
For years we have been told that we have to cut domestic “discretionary” spending, and it was assumed that the military and defense contractors would get all of our money they wanted. They now get one dollar in five of our tax dollars for current defense appropriations. If interest on past military-related debt and other costs attributable to our endless wars are counted, the percentage is much higher. Remember the peace dividend? We could have used it to repair roads and bridges, to educate ourselves and to fund so many things that government can do to make us secure and prosperous. Instead, powerful forces grabbed the peace dividend by convincing us that an occupation of Iraq and ever-increasing “defense” spending were unavoidable.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta just concluded his remarks to the National Press Club. I will let him make my case for me: “Aircraft, ships, tanks, bases, even those that have outlived their usefulness, have a natural political constituency,” Panetta said. “Readiness does not.” Panetta complained that Congress kept weapons systems in the budget that he asked to cut! He said he sees $487 billion in savings possible over the next decade. “The era of blank check defense spending are over,” he said.
We must influence this debate, which has mostly been about choosing how much to cut social programs and how much to raise taxes and on whom. I hope large numbers of us will tell our congressional delegation that solving problems at home is a significant aspect of security. We no longer want it assumed that the military gets more than it asks for.
DAVID ERIKSON, Weare