I may disagree with Rep. Mike Coffman about most things, but he has a lot of guts to call for Pentagon cuts, like he's been doing, especially since he represents a district near Colorado Springs.
It's a truism that most politicians who represent communities anywhere near a military facility won't suggest defense cuts, even if the cuts are unrelated to the military activities in their districts. It's one for all and all for one, even if a tiny slice of the defense budget could change the world for millions and millions of people.
Pentagon spending now accounts for about half of the federal discretionary budget, which is the portion of the budget that's the focus of most beltway debate.
Current Pentagon spending is $696 billion, with $118 billion going to the Iraq and Afghan wars (our closest "enemy" China, spends about $120 billion, Russia $70 billion, Iran $7 billion).
Contrast this, if you feel like getting really depressed, with federal spending on clean energy development ($4 billion), Head Start ($8 billion), humanitarian foreign aid ($27 billion), and K-12 education ($43 billion). The entire EPA budget is about $10 billion, give or take a few billion.
The lives of millions of starving kids could be saved by spending $10 billion a year on basic health needs. Amory Lovins had written that we could rid ourselves of our dependence on oil in 10 years with a $20 billion per year investment. About $10 billion more would cover poor kids in America who are eligible for Head Start but don't get it. The list goes on.
Against this backdrop, even the briefest look at the federal budget shows that Pentagon spending, even without the Iran and Aftghan wars, is way out of control.
But you wouldn't know it, would you, if you lived in the Tea Party Echo Chamber of talk radio, where even whispers of Pentagon cuts are rarely heard.
Up steps Coffman, with the Tea Party mostly looking the other way, and suggests cuts in overseas bases, reductions in the active-duty force, and other idea, some of which have serious value.
He points out:
In early 2004, Osama bin Laden said one of his goals was to "bleed America to the point of bankruptcy." In some ways, our strategy of counterinsurgency has played into his hands. Our current doctrine is a high-cost nation-building strategy that has worn out our military.
Coffman might derive his inspiration on this issue from the fact that he served in Iraq.
And by the sound of it, you have to think he believes, like I do, that the war wasn't worth it, and he wants to spend tax dollars differently so America is less likely to repeat the mistake.
Follow Jason Salzman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BigMediaBlog