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Sunday, July 31, 2011

THE DEBT CEILING CRISIS AND THE DEFENSE BUDGET

From all reports, our debt ceiling crisis will soon be over. Our Congress has largely played political brinkmanship 78 times over the past half a century. Why we continue this charade is just another sign that our government is broken, as only Denmark and the USA follow this tradition, and the Danish wisely keep their ceiling so high that it is never an issue. This time the overwhelming reason is that the Republicans are trying to take over the White House by weakening President Barack Obama for the 2012 presidential election.
The primary problem reverts to voters and their total misunderstanding of economic reality. The public thinks our Federal debt is like their personal debt. My HuffPo on "The Simplest Solution for Our National Debt...is to Increase It," explains all this. In short, the Tea Party has jumped on this illusion, and their strategy has worked. Amazing.
One positive to this nonsense is that it is appearing that a verboten untouchable, the defense budget, is to be part of the eventual package. Conservatives have historically been protectors of our national security, waving the freedom flag, for this also appeals to the masses. These Republican members of Congress are also largely funded by the Military-Industrial Complex to maximum defense expenditures.
My very first Huffington Post article was on this subject, and a couple more followed. But the idea is now getting contagious, for you keep hearing that the White House, and, especially former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, want to cut the military budget. Even some Republicans have, apparently, accepted this possibility to reduce the deficit. Finally, the American people now want our Federal government to focus on domestic over international affairs.
First, some background, to appreciate the enormity of the problem and, thus, the grand opportunity. To quote from Forbes:  

Not counting the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Defense budget is expected to be $553 billion in 2012, up from $549 billion in 2011. That outlay currently represents 19% of the entire federal budget and over 50% of U.S. discretionary spending...


That Middle East war, of course, adds another $120 billion, so now we are way over 50% of so called discretionary (everything minus social security medicare-whatever/equivalent and interest on the national debt) spending. On the surface, the Department of Defense dominance is alarming. The truth of the matter is that it is even worse, for the real expenditure is nearly nearly twice what is frequently quoted as the DOD budget. Thus, the military swallows about two-thirds of non-entitlement money to run our entire government. During those Cold War days when there was a real threat of the Soviet Union, we were spending far less. Today, with a rag-tag bunch (say, maybe 1000 really bad) terrorists, with the world order not at all threatened, we are misappropriating much more.  

We have, for example, eleven Navy task forces (and, therefore, eleven active aircraft carriers--more than the entire world combined--China has none, Russia has a relic more than a quarter century old and the UK all of one), and each reportedly costs $4.5 billion to annually operate. Thus, there is an opportunity to reduce the budget by $50 billion/year if we sensibly decommission most of them.  

A recent blog article of mine suggests another $50 billion savings by bringing our 516,273 troops in 150 countries back home. Did you know we still have 54,000 American military just in Germany? We won that war 66 years ago. Here on the left are American bases just in this country! You might say that the only war we ever lost was a kind of blessing, because the only domino that fell was the Soviet Union, and we have zero presence in Vietnam.  (I've said this many times before, but if you want to actually read the details, just click on that diagram.)
Yet, with no worries about a nuclear winter, we are building a new fleet of super carrier--the first once called the Gerald Ford, and, now, America--now in construction, will cost $14 billion. Why? Especially as an aircraft carrier is today obsolete. Okay, finish this last one (for posturing is a big part of wars today), and mothball (actually, as it will cost about a billion dollars to decommission each battle group, maybe try to sell them to China and Russia--and if this scares you, then, maybe Saudi Arabia, Japan, Singapore, etc.) at least nine of the twelve.  
I have only provided two possible targets of diminution. Clearly, as faith in religion develops from upbringing, defense spending has become holy because the Military-Industrial Complex (watch President Eisenhower's--he was a general, too--warning of half a century ago) has effectively indoctrinated us, while, too, of course, controlling Congress and the White House. You can't effectively argue against freedom. But it's more than that, as every state has some military presence. Just hint at closing a navy task force base, and see what happens. We are largely the problem. Thus, this debt ceiling charade might just be the spark needed to bring us to our better senses, initiating the beginning of my 10% solution.
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There are four ocean storms, with Tropical Storm Eugene south of Mexico now at 40 MPH expected to strengthen into a hurricane by Wednesday, and in the Atlantic, a small disturbance predicted to become a tropical storm, heading in the general direction of Florida.  However, the big one is Super Typhoon Muifa at 145 MPH, projected to slam into Okinawa, in fact, at this time, right over Naha, by Thursday, as a Category 3 monster, then head for China, currently in towards Zhoushan and Shanghai.

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