An informed discussion about politics. Hosted by a mathematician, a lawyer, and a political scientist.
Here's the 1900-1940 active duty data LTG asked about (data/graph courtesy of USWest.)
Two things. First, I'd be more interested in seeing military spending as a percentage of our GDP rather than raw dollars. Second, so what? Why is a big military budget in of itself a problem? Granted, I'd rather some of that money spent on more productive things but aside from the budgetary opportunity cost, why is a big military - in of itself - a problem? // posted by Raised By Republicans
OK, I noticed on the last post about this that our military spending as a percentage of our GDP has been dropping for a long time. I think that is a far more informative indicator especially given US West's argument about how militarized our society and economy are. In particular I point out that as a share of our total economy, even now our military spending is far lower than it was in either the Carter or Reagan years. // posted by Raised By Republicans
The real problem is the spending and the size. Granted, spending is shrinking as a percentage of the GDP. But the raw numbers are staggering! I understand RBR's concern because in essence, once you see where we are, you have to ask yourself if you can put the genie back in the bottle or alter your policies in ways to contain the situation. Furthermore, you create a type of self-fulfilling prophecy where your preparation for war ends up leading you into it. I am not sure I see a way out of it. We would have to fall into some sort of horrid depression and then rebuild the economy from the bottom up. The problem I see with such a big military focus is that you set up an offensive footing visa vie the rest of the world. Foreign Policy: Clinton tried to slow military spending preferring to gain military strength through multilateral cooperation and pooling resources- working more within NATO, for example. This diminished anti-Americanism around the globe. And remember, he was close to a peace deal in Israel. But the shift in this Administration has been to go it alone and increase military power and capabilities for shock and awe effects. When you have that kind of power, you tend to negate negotiation in favor of military might. Iraq is a primeexample of that. So your foreign policy is no longer based on trade, diplomacy, establishingdurable allies, etc. but on who you can intimidate or bully. Power structure: Military planners and decision makers along with their intelligence men gain too much influence over decision making across the government at the expense of other areas, such as the State Department, Department of Justice, etc. To give you an idea, at one point (and it may still be going on) Rumsfeld obliged anyone applying for 3 stars or higher to have an interview with him personally. If you disagreed with him, no star for you. He in effect politicized the military-always a dangerous precedent.Trade Policy: We may not sell the really great military stuff we build, but with the continuous spiraling of military technology, why not sell off the old stuff or simplify the design for export. Isn't that how it works- built in obsolescence? And doesn't this ultimately cause all the boats to rise? You want to be so far a head, no one can catch up? How far is far enough? Do we spend ourselves into the ground like the USSR did? As this stuff spreads around (like the nukes have) how do you contain the desire to use it?Health, Education, Economics, Domestic issues: There is an opportunity cost to all this spending and the loss is always to soft programs like those listedabove.Imagine if we could divert military jobs and resources into environmentaltechnologies? How about a public health care system for everyone? The cost of asmart bullet might pay for 4 years of college for a single student or something like that. Maybe the cost of a single stealth bomber savesSocial Security for another 3 years. Need I go on? But that work is very hard and the results are only evident in the long term. The testosterone high is much greater and more immediate in engineering the weaponization of space.
Most of what your talking about is bad policies that would be a problem regardless of whether we paid 3% or 2.5% of our GDP on the military. Most other major powers spend about 2.5%. Up and coming revisionist powers like China spend far more than we do as a share of their economies.Focussing on the absolute numbers is grossly misleading. The US economy is staggeringly huge. We probably spend more on cat food than all other countries combined. My point is that arguing about the absolute size of our military as if that alone is a problem misses the primary political problem while implying that our society is far more militarized than it really is. The opportunity cost problem is a real issue though. But we could solve that relatively easily (repealing a few tax cuts and reducing military spending only a little bit).I'm not talking putting genies back in bottles. I think you've focussed on size when the real problem is policy and control.Impeach Bush! Vote Democrat! // posted by Raised By Republicans
Well, actually, I agree that the problem is policy and control. But the more resource you devote to a given areas, in this case, military, the harder it is to control. I would, perhaps be less worried if a smarter Administration was in power. But regardless of who it is, the compromises we make as a society so support the "military" habit are not worth it, in my opinion. I'd much rather see us investing money in science and math because we want to build environmentally safe technologies, or better levies say, than because we want a faster fighter jet. That is what I mean when I say that the military need is the motivation behind a lot of what we produce. I wish it was more humanitarian motivations that drove us. // posted by USWest
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