Militant Ginger Balances America's BudgetOn Wednesday, I launched an ambitious project in which I attempt solve America's financial crisis.
In my introduction, I outlined the fact that America's federal spending has reached crisis point - with the government splashing out $1.5 trillion dollars a year more than it brings in from tax revenue. This is leading to a larger and larger national debt - one the size of America's annual GDP at last count.
But the problem I found is this: You could scrap every wing of government - from the White House to the Post Office - and still find the fed spending more than it brings in.
In fact, just three facets of the federal government account for more than $2.13 trillion in spending - the Military, Social Security and Medicare. Combined, they alone cost $36 billion more than the government brings in.
On Thursday, I explored Social Security and Medicare - and concluded that the state of these beleaguered systems would effectively drive them both out of existence with a decade or two.
Social Security is effectively on its way to being privatized already (I pay into my 401k with the understanding that a lifetime of Social Security payments won't cover my retirement.)
Likewise, with 47% of Americans already on some kind of subsidized health care - it's almost inevitable that Medicare will be replaced with a single payer system just like it has been in every other first-world country in the world.
Moving on from those issues, however, it's time to examine America's other big financial drain: The military.
The Military: Not cheap.
The Department of Defense is, by far, America's single biggest financial outlay. It currently makes up 23% of federal spending and swallows up no less than 85% of federal income tax revenue. If spending reaches the proposed figures for 2011, America will spend more on it's military than the combined military spending of every other country on Earth.
To clarify - that's not just 'spending more' than any other country on Earth - it's spending more than the combined military spending of every other country on Earth, all at the same time - including China, Russia, the UK and all the other 'big' military spenders.
This means the United States could go to war simultaneously with every other country on the planet and still outspend them (so bring it on, bitches!)
[Just to clarify, I you've fudged the figures here a little Militant Ginger - but only by a few billion dollars. Overall, the statement's as nearly true as it needs to be - Editorial Bear]
If you really want to reign in the deficit and get America's budget back in the black, the first place you need to look is at the military (but propose such a radical suggestion to the tea party and you'll get a steaming, hot cup of 'shut the f**k up' thrown in your face.)
But does America REALLY need to spend almost a trillion dollars a year on defense? Do we really need to spend ten times more than our closest equal 'enemy' China (who could, in all likelihood, still kick our asses in most war scenarios.)
The fact is, we spend twice the percentage of our nation's GDP on defense than almost any other country (with the exception of a bunch of Middle Eastern nations.) I honestly believe we could reign it in to the same percentage as China, the United Kingdom and other first world countries without jeopardizing the safety of the nation - and if we can't, it's proof that for all the billions of dollars we spend on defense, we're sure-as-hell not getting our money's worth for it!
Hey, cutting military spending by 50% doesn't come close to solving our deficit issue - it would free up at most $400 billion dollars. But if you're serious about solving America's financial fragility, it's the only place to start.
The tea party can whine and moan and bitch about federal spending all they want, but unless they trim the defense budget, America will always be leveraged in debt and their complaints will always ring as hypocritical and hollow.
I'm going to give the right wing this much - slashing the military budget won't come near to solving our financial crisis. Even if we reign in Social Security and Medicare until they pay for themselves (which is a wildly optimistic scenario) America will still be deep in the red for the foreseeable future. In my next poorly-informed, barely comprehensible ramble, I'll look more closely at that - and what can be done about it.
Read Part Four...