*Probably the most oft repeated criticism of President Obama is that he is a socialist who incorrectly prioritizes social programs; more generally conservatives view liberals as spending the country’s revenue on the wrong programs. Thus has been the back and forth of domestic policy debates over the last 100 years.
But it is time to alter the conversation. Many of the federal programs supported by liberals were instituted during the Great Depression when the federal government took on the new role of attempting to stimulate the economy by creating demand. Many other favored liberal programs came about during the 1960s when the country was in the midst of its longest period of uninterrupted economic growth.
Conservatives like to point out that the Great Depression was a special circumstance and that the current economic situation dictates that New Deal programs be altered or eliminated altogether. Similarly they argue that because the country is not as prosperous as it was during the 1960s that the Great Society programs could and should be cut. But what conservatives fail to mention is that their favorite program, which rivals Social Security as a percentage of the federal budget, is also a product of a different and better economic era.
The defense budget was non-existent before World War II because the defense department did not exist. However with the beginning of the Cold War, the defense of the country against the threat of communism any and everywhere in the world meant that military spending would increase. Also at the end of World War II the country began a period of nearly three decades of economic growth, so the rising defense spending was not a problem.
News flash: The Cold War is over. Second News Flash: The United States won. Ergo the special circumstances that existed to justify exorbitant amounts spent on defense are no longer an issue. Likewise the current economic situation in which the federal government has asked employees to take unpaid leaves struggles to support a bloated defense budget.
Nor would a smaller defense budget endanger the country. The United States maintains a large advantage in the amount of advanced weaponry (ships, planes, missiles, bombs) with respect to every country on earth. Decreasing military spending would not mean Iran having the same amount of missiles as us; it would simply mean we would have 10X as many missiles instead of 15X as many. Moreover a lessened military presence around the globe would mean a lesser ability to intimidate other countries, forcing the United States to engage in more meaningful diplomacy and work with our allies in international relations.
At the end of the day this is about how we as Americans spend our money. Ultimately we cannot continue along the current path. Many of the social programs are costly and scaling them back would help the country toward fiscal viability. The same can and should be said of the American military program.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected]