Advancing a Free Society

A heretic responds

Friday, October 14, 2011

Since I have often argued in these electronic pages for reducing defense spending, I feel the need to respond to Tom Mahnken's post, and hopefully draw out the arguments for and against maintaining or increasing our current DOD accounts. I agree with Tom that our current level of defense spending is not an undue burden on the American economy. Since the end of World War II, spending levels have been far in excess of our current roughly 4 percent of GDP without demonstrable negative economic effects. But three other factors persuade me that reductions to defense spending should be undertaken. First, we have a national security vulnerability of epic proportions in our federal debt. Defense is not the primary cause of that debt; obviously, our medical and retirement programs need to be reduced and brought into sustainable proportions. But defense is a significant contributor to the debt. Military strength is not the sole basis of American power -- our economy, our values, our vibrancy demand we put ourselves on sound financial footing, which requires us to address the problem of American debt addiction. I have a difficult time seeing how either the math or the politics work to bring federal spending into line with receipts if conservatives rule defense out of bounds.

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