What Does "Cut Military Spending" Mean?

We hear that we Photo: DVIDSHUB

“If there is any place in our budget where we can make an immediate impact on our deficit, it is in defense spending, because, when it comes to the military, our government shows no fiscal restraint. [For example,] {i}t spends more than $1 million per soldier per year in Afghanistan…” Source: Nico Perrino, Mises Daily, February 17, 2012. http://mises.org/daily/5896/The-Snowball-of-Empire


INDIANAPOLIS, February 17, 2012 - “Even after the end of a major war and the announcement that the Army and Marine Corps will be slimmed down, there will be no monetary savings in the defense budget.” Source: Iain Murray and David Bier, The Washington Times, January 10, 2012, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jan/10/avoiding-a-lost-decade/

It seems everyone, including writers from the free-market Mises Institute to our daily paper — everyone fails to recognize the two big, and very different, parts of “the military budget.”

The first part has to do with the ongoing security of the nation: defeat of enemies, development of weapons, elimination of credible threats, and protection of borders. In other words, defense of the country.

The second has to do with overhead. We’ve long had a policy of not paying troops what they’re worth as they serve, and trying to make it up later in pensions, preferences, and benefits. While massive (WWII-size) deployments would certainly have caused financial strain, the government borrowed all it needed then — it could have borrowed more, and avoided the problems these deferred-payment schemes have now produced.

But politicians know it’s better for their own careers to have a large group beholden to handouts and thus scared of speaking their mind or voting for fiscally-responsible governance, so the government has conned young military recruits to expect getting cheated on their pay-for-performance as a tradeoff for preferential treatment and welfare forever. Our country’s rulers have continued to extend benefits, in a vote-buying and regime-protecting scheme that our former military (and their families) are more than happy to exploit, and are encouraged to depend on.

Unless our rulers and the media wise up, we’ll continue to expand the non-productive military at the expense of the present and future “actual” military. And we will spend countless billions on a “military” that has no capability to do military things, but is just another class of welfare recipients.

Fix it? That’s politically difficult; it requires honesty: Pay our active military what they’re worth while they serve, and we’ll have plenty of “volunteers.” Cover active military with disability insurance, paid for out of those higher wages, and they’ll still take the necessary risks. As the return to civilian life, they’ll have a nest egg that will go a long way toward their families’ independence; and we also won’t be forever dragged down by “military expenses” that have nothing to do with defense.

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Tim Kern

Tim Kern taught economics for fifteen years, and discovered that understanding life is easy; it’s recognizing reality that takes practice. He holds a music degree, and later earned an MBA in finance from Northwestern University. He has lived across the US, and now makes his home in Anderson, Indiana.

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