The Economics of Federal Defense PolicyThree out of four Americans polled in the 1992 election year believed that theUnited States was heading in the wrong direction. With such an overwhelmingconsensus, the country hired a new president to attempt to fix the vital issuesat hand. Although both Republicans and Democrats believed that the United Stateswas still the “sole superpower”, the people of the United States saw that theirquality of life was deteriorating. In fact, the signs of economic, social, andpolitical decay were undeniable.
For example, the wages of production workers in America have declined twentypercent in the last twenty years due to large corporations shifting theiroperations overseas. Over thirty-seven million Americans are without healthinsurance due to its exploding costs. There are about sixty million people belowthe poverty line; fourteen million of which are children. Our crime rate is atan all-time high as well as the population in our prison system. The UnitedStates has nineteen preceding nations that have lower infant mortality rates.
Among the twenty most developed countries in the world, the United States hasthe highest divorce rate and the highest teen pregnancy rate. The mostincredulous fact of all is that the Pentagon continues to absorb twenty percentof the federal budget-over a third of which is spent protecting Europe againstan enemy that no longer exists.
In fact, that is the most probable source of America’s problems: the budget.
Forty-seven percent of the national federal budget is spent for a militaryexpense. The National Defense, the topic of this paper, is what is stealingmoney from the poor in our own country and lessening our status as the “solesuperpower” of the world.
The National Defense was a program initiated from day one of the United States’existence. It was a program designed to protect the people of the world, butprimarily the people of this nation. It was designed to protect human rights andthe ideals of democracy and capitalism. However, in lieu of recent events, theuse for such a program is now debatable. The world has changed significantly anddramatically within the last five years. The threat of an evil empire such asthe Soviet Union is no longer; the Cold War is over.
Ultimately, demilitarization is needed for many reasons. Both Democrats andRepublicans alike supported the development of a gigantic-industrial complex.
Both are content with only minor budget reductions. However, more drasticmeasures should be taken in order to move this country into the twenty-firstcentury successfully. Military spending should be slashed, the CentralIntelligence Agency (CIA) should be dismantled, and the other vestiges of theCold War should be removed.
(A)This graph displays the United States’ military spending compared to that of itsTop Ten contenders. It shows how overwhelming and exacerbated the United States’spending really is. Russia and the United Kingdom spend about two hundred fiftybillion dollars less than the United States. In fact, there is a twenty-fivebillion dollar difference between the United States and all the other nationscombined.
This next graph again shows the outrageous spending habits of the United Statesand its Department of Defense. This graph displays the United States compared toits potential enemies or adversaries. The differences are astronomical. Russia,the only country that comes close to comparison, is still a mere two hundredbillion dollars behind.
(B)The threat of the Cold War is extinct. For over forty years, the military budgethas been driven by the Soviet threat. Over half the budget was devoted todefeating a sudden attack by the Warsaw Pact nations on Germany. Now, the ex-Soviets want to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In the wordsof General Colin Powell,” The Red Army is no more.” (1) In fact, the economy inthe post-Soviet nations is so terrible that the soldiers are selling theirweapons for food. Malnutrition is incredibly prevalent. According to the CIA andthe Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), if Russia was to be taken over by adictator, it would take ten years for them to reconstitute a military threat tothe west.
The facts are clear. The United States is surrounded by friendly nations oneither side as well as two gigantic oceans. Most of the nations that are strongenough to be considered a threat are now considered friendly nations. Thepossibility of any potential enemies coming close to competing with the defensetactics and forces of the United States is virtually impossible.
These statistics are also evident to the politicians in Washington. The BushAdministration and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1992 invented the new term forthe enemy in order to avoid a dramatic change to the country’s economics. Theycreated the “threat of the unknown.” (2). The military changed its focus to thatof maintaining peace and harmony abroad. Sending troops to Bosnia and Somaliaare two prime examples of the military’s effort to provide humanitarian relief.
In a meeting with the House Armed Services Committee, General Colin Powellbrought forth a list of the military events that had occurred over the past fiveyears. Events included items such as “Just Cause,” the capture of Manuel Noriegain Panama; Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf; “Operation GTMO,” which sentseventeen hundred troops to Cuba in order to care for Haitian refugees; drugoperations in Latin America; “Provide Hope,” which delivered supplies to theformer Soviet Union; rescue and relief missions in Somalia and Zaire; and “FireyVigil,” which intimidated coup plotters in the Philippines. It is obvious to seeto even the average human being that the two hundred fifty billion dollars thatthe United States spends on military defense could be spent better and moreefficiently at home.
(C)This graph demonstrates how exactly the government spends our money. Astaggering forty-seven percent of the budget is allocated for military expenseswith fifty-four percent spent on defense alone. As shown, only six percent ofthe military budget is spent providing and caring for the men and women whofought for our country in the Vietnam, Korean, and Gulf wars. In fact, Les Aspin,the Defense Secretary under Clinton, believes that people like Saddam Hussein ofIraq and Kim II Sung of North Korea are fueling the defense budget. Theremarkable fact is that their militaries couldn’t withstand an attack from theUnited States ever. The reason why they pose such a threat is because of thepotential nuclear warfare. The only nuclear bomb ever dropped was in August of1945. The United States sees these men as mad-men with the nuclear power todestroy the world. However, I wonder what good will come of the United States’two hundred fifty billion dollar army when the entire world has been destroyedby the push of a button.
Aspin also realized that it was entirely possible for the United States to fighttwo regional wars simultaneously against Iraq and North Korea, while sustainingthe capacity for a Panama-like intervention in this hemisphere, a Kurdish-levelrelief operation, reserve forces for the possibility of an extension on one ofthe regional wars, and a foundation of strategic nuclear forces, continentalforces, new weapons research and development, base troops in Europe, and top-level operations and training. This seems excessive and unrealistic due to thelack of this scenario actually taking place. It seems that it would be far morebeneficial to utilize this extra money in other areas of need: reducing thedeficit, caring for the elderly, etc.
The ultimate goal for any progressive politician would be to convert the economyfrom a war-time economy to a civilian-based economy. It is very important forour future presidents to figure how to reallocate the defense funds to somethingproductive for the twenty-first century. Although, politicians who might striveto do so may have problems being reelected. In the process of slashing thedefense budget, many jobs will be destroyed. The people of this country wouldhave to patient with a politician who attempted to change the status quo. Often,people expect immediate change. This kind of change cannot be accomplishedwithin the four year presidential term. It would take cooperation from the House,the Senate, and the President for a longer period of time than four years. Itwould be a long and potentially painful process that would hopefully accomplishmany achievements. It is time for the country to realize that the Cold War isover and that it is time for a new way of life.
President Clinton has attempted to reallocate some of the defense budget fundsto programs like the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program. However,such a task is only the proverbial drop in the bucket. Funds for education, theenvironment , and housing are expected to decline over the next five years.
There have been no commitments to research on electric cars andtelecommunications. There has not been any solid plans concerning theimplementation of mass transit. Undoubtedly, these programs are vital to a newand powerful technological future. Essentially, military research continues todominate the bulk of the federal budget. This leaves only limited resources fordiscovering alternative energy sources, efficient manufacture, and “green”technologies which are surely to dominate the markets of the future.
(D)This graph adequately shows how little the government is doing to help thepeople of this country. While the United States ranks at the top of teenpregnancies and divorce, only a tiny portion of the government spending isdedicated towards family support. Again, the defense budget’s staggeringstatistics demonstrate its absurdity. Employment training, housing needs, andnutrition assistance are much more mandatory than fighting the nonexistent ColdWar enemy.
The United States must confront several issues in order to convert to acivilian-based economy. First, painless ways to move to a civilian-based economymust be identified. Second, the ethos of the “intelligence community” need to bechanged by disbanding parts of it and opening its research to internationalusage. Third, a comprehensive nuclear and conventional weapons disarmamentshould be implemented where all nations take part. Fourth, formulate policiesthat take account of the United Nations to ensure that groups and individualscan be represented on issues of trade, the environment, transnationalpeacemaking, international citizenship for the stateless, and human rights.
However, it is rather unlikely that a post-war social reconstruction wouldgenerate the enthusiasm and national purpose that the Cold War did. It is easyto see that the patriotic way a country comes together to fight an enemy is fareasier than finding a way to agree on issues such as peace and human rights.
As it is shown in the following graph, twenty percent of the federal budget isspent on military expenses while thirty percent is allocated to social expensessuch as education, housing, social security, and welfare. In other comparablecountries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Sweden, the ratiosshow a dramatic difference in priorities. Sweden could prove to be an example inthe way we should restructure our country. Less than ten percent of theirfederal budget is spent on defense, while an overwhelming 65 percent is spent onvarious social concerns.
(E)Fortunately, President Clinton is finally moving in the right direction. He isattempting to cut back on defense as well as seeking economic activities toreplace the military-industrial complex. He plans to reduce military spending byone hundred eighteen million dollars. Over 460,000 jobs have disappeared since1990 in the military arena. Military bases have been closed and sometimes soldto the private sector. $3.9 billion dollars have been spent on dual-use programs,or programs that incorporate military technology and equipment for non-militaryuses.
However, for every step forward there seems to be more than a few steps backward.
24,000 contaminated facilities are needing to be cleaned at the cost of $100 to$400 billion due to toxic spills and nuclear clean-up. Clinton promised “dollarfor dollar” reinvestment for conversion opportunities which was neverimplemented. This would be a fantastic reward for those interested in futuretechnologies.
It is definitely not an easy task that any president has. He is faced with thedilemma of reelection possibilities. If they attempt to change the country forthe better, they face the problem of being despised for their ambitions. Even ifthey do not do anything and just maintain the status quo they probably will notbe reelected either.
At this point, President Clinton should try to do several constructive things inattempt to convert the economy. He should determine the spending priorities ofthe people of this nation and figure which of those are indicative and vital toa decent society. Education and training are two great causes. Literacy ratesare on the decline and truancy and drop-outs are on the rise. Creatinginfrastructure and communications for the twenty-first century is also important.
The United States is the only first world country without an advanced form ofrapid mass transit. Alternative resources and energies need to be discovered inorder to prevent people like Saddam Hussein from controlling the currentresources. Our oil suppliers in the Middle East are deteriorating at a rapidrate – it would be wise to start seeking a fuel alternative. The president wouldneed to express that it will be a wrenching process and encourage publicinvestment. Whatever the cost, sweeping changes need to occur in order for theUnited States to be a continuing world leader.
There is no easy solution to the problems that lie ahead. It is a rapidlychanging world with swift and stern economic competition. It requires risk andchange on our part. The answer that lies to the path of success is the reductionof military spending and the reallocation of that money into technology andbasic internal improvement. It is as if the United States needs to issue atemporary isolationist policy, a “closed for remodeling” sign if you will. Somany things could be done to make this country such a better place. So manylives could be saved from poverty, illiteracy, addictions, and violence if onlythe military budget could be spent on education.
In order to be a successful nation, we are going to have to trust a politicianto lead us there. It would have to a person that is dedicated to creating thebest possible nation ever; strong at home and fierce in the internationalmarkets. It would be the ultimate reconstruction period with a completerevamping of our budget and goal as a country. I just don’t know if its possible.
It seems so idealistic. But, it is an exciting prospect none the less.
Bibliography1. Divided We Fall: Gambling with History in the 90’s. By Haynes Johnson. W.W.
Norton ; Co., NY, London, 1994.
2. Highwire: From the Backroads to the Beltway. By John Brummett. Hyperion, NY,1994.
3. State of the Union 1994: The Clinton Administration and the Nation inProfile. ByRichard Caplan and John Feffer. Westview Press, Boulder, 1994.
4. The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House. By Bob Woodward. Simon ;Schuster, NY, 1994.
FootnotesQuotations1State of the Union 1994, Page 67. 2State of the Union 1994, Page 68.
Graphs AState of the Union 1994, Page 63. BState of the Union 1994,Page 69. CState of the Union 1994, Page 83. DState of the Union 1994,Page 73. EState of the Union 1994, Page 91.