THE BLOG
05/05/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Is An Inflated Defense Budget the Cause of Our Debt Problem?

Let's begin with a little Eddie Harris and Les McCann:

"Love the lie and lie the love
A-Hangin' on, with push and shove
Possession is the motivation
That is hangin' up the God-damn nation
Looks like we always end up in a rut (everybody now!)
Tryin' to make it real compared to what"

Yes, tryin' to make it real compared to what." "Spending is the real source of the [debt] problem," so said Wisconsin Congressman, Paul Ryan to Chris Matthews on March 3rd's edition of Hardball. Yes, and just as Basil Fawlty often called his wife, Sybil, the 'Queen of the bloody obvious,' I can adapt that line and call Ryan the 'Congressman of the bloody obvious.' Does he really think that's new news? Apparently, every novice Congressman must think that s/he has discovered the political analogue to the Rosetta Stone in relation to Congressional over-spending and how to reduce the debt. To the question Chris Matthews asked Ryan relative to the cost of military spending and overall spending in the Congress: "How can we have all that cost and have a self-sustaining social welfare program in this country?" Ryan answered: "Defense spending is at its smallest amount as a percentage of GDP as it's been in years so here's the problem with your social democracy tact." So, in an 8 minute interview Ryan, who even mumbled trying to answer the question, deftly avoids answering the question and gives some superficial, fact-less nonsense and moves on to something else to avoid discussing one of the most pertinent issues today. Why? Because the military budget is sacrosanct. One doesn't need to parse Ryan's nebulous answer (which Matthews didn't pursue leading one to question whether the show's name should be changed from Hardball to Softball) to realize he avoided seriously discussing the issue for political purposes.

According to CDI, "the U.S. military budget is more than 37-times as large as the combined spending of the seven "rogue" states (Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria)." According to the Wall Street Journal's Market Watch, "The Obama administration sent Congress its proposed military budget on Monday, requesting $708 billion for fiscal 2011, including $159 billion to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The base budget is a 3.4% increase from the prior fiscal year at $549 billion, or 1.8% real growth after adjusting for inflation. Accompanying the budget proposal is a fiscal 2010 supplemental request for $33 billion to help support 30,000 additional troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. military budget accounts for 18.5% of the total 2011 budget." According to the GAO, the cost to procure each B-2 stealth bomber was US$737 million in 1997 dollars based only on a fleet cost of US$15.48 billion. And that was 13 years ago!

So, while the military budget expands, a recent "measure to give some 57 million elderly people, veterans and persons with disabilities a $250 check was rejected by the Senate." Likewise, Social Security payments for the elderly and disabled will stay flat this year for the first time 35 years because they are tied to consumer prices, which decreased amid our millennial depression. The question that goes begging is this: From what is the American public being protected that we have to spend that much money on defense? As the infrastructure of the country decays, the military budget grows. So, what are we being protected from or for? The obvious answer is that United States citizens are the best-protected, albeit infirm, citizens in the world. Not sure that's something (especially for "Boomers") we can "take to the bank." Perhaps, when we all go to bed at night, even though we may not have universal health coverage or a job or little hope of any future Social Security, we can sleep peacefully knowing that each B-2 Stealth Bomber that costs about $530 million to make is keeping us safe from enemy fire. Tryin' to make it real compared to what?"