Defense Down, Entitlement Up

The defense budget has steadily declined over the past 40 years while federal spending on social programs has drastically risen. All the clamor on the left about how the Republican party does not take care of people is refuted by the amount of money spent on domestic programs. An article in the Christian Science Monitor points out that the Republican led Congress has spent, in 2005, more than 10 times that spent in 1994 on pork projects. This is not to say the Republicans are responsible for all the pork because the Democrats spend their fair share. What this indicates is that no one in Congress can exercise fiscal restraint. Redistribution of wealth, that is, taking money from one group and giving it to another, accounts for 60% of federal spending. That figure is expected to rise to 75%. The longer we wait to overhaul Social Security the more we will pay in taxes and that much more wealth will be redistributed. Private accounts will eventually come but in waiting we are costing future generations of Americans trillions of dollars.

I believe in fiscal restraint. I do not think the government should be in the business of playing Robin Hood. The money we pay in taxes should go to the things we expect government to provide and the social programs should be limited. Yet, the government continues down a path of destruction which will eventually lead to the collapse of our financial structure. If we do not curb it now we could suffer another great depression or worse yet, more people will become recipients by refusing to work so their money can go to others. According to the CSM article, the left should be pleased because the trends show that spending has mirrored their ideals much more closely than that of the right.

Certain trends have been favoring the left for the past several decades. In the early 1960s, transfer payments (entitlements and welfare) constituted less than a third of the federal government’s budget. Now they constitute almost 60 percent of the budget, or about $1.4 trillion per year. Measured according to this, the US government’s main function now is redistribution: taking money from one segment of the population and giving it to another segment. In a few decades, transfer payments are expected to make up more than 75 percent of federal government spending.

Currently the federal government consumes about 20 percent of the GDP, which is another way of saying that about 20 percent of Americans’ income, on average, is paid in taxes to the federal government. According to the Government Accountability Office, that is on course to rise to 30 percent by 2040. Most of that 30 percent would be redistributed as payments to other Americans, rather than spent on standard government services like law enforcement, transportation, defense, national parks, or space exploration.

While foreign policy has taken a rightward turn since Sept. 11, 2001, it, too, could drift leftward in coming decades. As the government allocates more of its budget to entitlements, there will be less money available to spend on the military, embassies, aid agencies, and other apparatuses that enable us to wield outsized influence in world affairs. We are on track to become more like the welfare states of Europe and Canada, where entitlement spending leaves limited funds available for bold foreign policy initiatives.

The left should be pleased that defense spending as a percentage of the federal budget has steadily declined during the past decades. In the early 1960s the Department of Defense constituted 45 percent of federal spending, whereas this year it will constitute an estimated 17 percent, according to the Office of Management and Budget. At the same time that percentage shrank, the percentage devoted to entitlements rose. This is reflected in money allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services: It skyrocketed from just over 3 percent of federal expenditures four decades ago to an estimated 25 percent this year. With the impending retirement of the baby-boom generation in addition to the new prescription drug plan, this crowding-out of defense and other government programs, such as homeland security, will accelerate.

The left has a powerful institutional force on its side: “public choice” economics. Our system of government is highly responsive to vocal groups that lobby for subsidies, government programs, and other special favors. Since the costs are spread out among all taxpayers while the benefits are concentrated among smaller segments of the population (such as retirees, in the case of Social Security and Medicare), the taxpayers have much less of an incentive to lobby against the measure while the beneficiaries have a huge incentive to lobby for it. Whenever those subsidies are threatened, the lobbies launch their barrages of politically effective complaints.

Forces favoring the left are virtually locked in. Even with Republicans in control, big government is destined to get a lot bigger.

For all the complaining the left does about the defense budget it really is small compared to the other expenditures and it has been getting smaller for years. It would seem that while bashing the Republicans the left has actually been bashing the liberal policies it has espoused for years. The have let their partisan hatred get in the way of their vision.

I, on the other hand, think we need to reign in spending and put an end to the pork projects that waste our money. This game of extortion has to end so that people can keep what they earn and stop paying for the failed programs of socialism. Socialism has not worked in any country in which it has been tried and only the intellectual elite are too stupid or blind or both, to see that. America should not become another test case to prove socialism does not work.

Source: CSM



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