First there was 2008, the year famous for one of the largest economic collapses in United States’ history, rivaling only that of the Great Depression in 1929. Then came 2009 when President Obama released a $3.27 trillion stimulus package in an attempt to repair the damage of 2008. Finally, there is the current day and age where we, Americans, are still suffering the consequences of the past four years.
With a current debt of roughly $15 trillion and an annual deficit of $1.5 trillion, the nation is still in dire need of economic relief. Whether it is the largest entities in JP Morgan, who recently took a $2 billion dollar hit to their stock portfolio, or the citizens in the near 15 percent living in poverty, something must be done to reduce deficit before economic conditions further deteriorate.
Though there is no simple, clear-cut answer to the problem and though a more balanced budget might not cause the economic relief required, one of the largest anomalies in the United States budget today is the defense spending. Time and time again, journalists, economists and politicians have brought up the amount spent on national defense by the government.
Every year, the government spends roughly 24 percent of all expenditures on national defense, or the military, a number that equates to roughly 1 trillion dollars. To put this figure in context, the amount the government spends in this category is larger than that of the next 20 countries and equivalent to roughly 45 percent of all global military spending.
A number so large begs the question of where this money goes. In active military personnel, the United States boasts the second largest standing army, behind only China, a country with more than five times our population. To fund such our military, $550 billion is spent annually, a figure much larger than that of China.
Not only that, but the United States also participates in costly wars that put a tremendous burden on the budget. The Iraq War, which was estimated to cost no more than $100 billion at the time of its conception in 2003, has been estimated to cost between $3-5 trillion in studies by economists and the government.
The government, however, has not been idle in its efforts to reduce this number, calling for a $500 billion budget cut over the next 10 years should Congress and the president fail to agree on a $1.2 trillion deficit reduction. Yet, this reduction is both conditional and minimal in its effort because the United States, a country with not even 10 percent of the global population, outspends any other country on defense by such a drastic margin.
There is no fundamental basis for such drastic spending in the military. Incidents such as the Iraq War, which was started on a fundamental lie, cost the government money that could otherwise be spent fixing up our economy. This lie was the fact that the legal justification for the war, in reference to the weapons destructions and the connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda, was fictional as stated by various Pentagon reports.
The government needs to restrict the ideology of policing international affairs through lowering the military budget in order to balance the growing deficits and prevent the debt from shattering the economy. Regardless of how the money saved from cuts to military is used, whether it be in savings to reduce our deficit or re-investing into social security, the action of transferring money away from a category that has yet to benefit our economy should be the government’s first priority.
With Obama currently working with Congress in an attempt to reduce such spending, this issue of defense spending will play a vital role in the upcoming presidential election. Students, especially seniors who are or soon will be eligible to vote, should understand the magnitude of defense spending and its effects on the government and our economy.
Generally speaking, President Obama’s term-long actions, current attempts and campaign promises aim for a reduction in military spending while, according to CNN, his most-likely 2012 presidential Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, has plans to increase such spending by $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years.