Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax Day

I mailed off all of my tax forms today and like most folk, have mixed feelings at best. We do have a refund... but I also have to make quarterly payments so one hand receives a check while the other writes one. All of it has been more immediate this year with all of the talk going on regarding the federal deficit and the impact it will have on future taxes.

I've been hearing commentators over the last few days say that with the huge deficit and the new health care bill, we will need to raise taxes or cut entitlement programs or both. As a general rule, I believe we should pay as we go. Yes there are some things for which borrowing is a logical plan, but generally, we should pay for the benefits we receive. And if you can't afford a Mercedes, drive a Kia. But here's the problem... we're being told to drive a Kia while nobody is questioning whether or not we really need a 14,000 square foot house with a pool and a tennis court. Huh? Let move away from the metaphor. The largest area of expense in the Federal budget is military spending. Now, the government figures say military spending is 20%, but that does not include costs for past military, interest on the debt incurred by military expenditures, or military costs that fall under other budget categories. The War Resisters League places the percentage of military spending at 54% with 36% going to the current military. In either case or somewhere in between, military spending is a huge piece of the pie. It needs to be a part of the discussion.

A budget is a reflection of values. Where your heart is... there is your money. The US spends more on the military than the next 15 nations combined, accounting for 47 percent of the world’s total military spending. Of the next 15 countries, at least 12 are considered allies of the U.S. So what does this massive spending say about us? Do we need to maintain military bases all around the world? Does that even make us safer? Or are the better ways to spend our money?

I don't mind paying more taxes. I benefit from living in the country in ways I cannot begin to express. It is my responsibility to contribute both to current needs and to the future. Even though I am a pacifist, I won't even complain about a reasonable amount going to the military. I do mind 1/2 of my taxes going to empirism. So let's talk seriously about the budget, about deficits, about the need to both cut spending and to raise taxes, but lets keep military spending on the table and realize that without cutting those expenditures, other changes will be inadequate to solve the problem without causing incredible hardship to our population. Imagine how many seniors would live in poverty if we drastically cut social security. Imagine what would happen to health care for seniors if we did away with medicare. We already have school districts talking about cutting a day from the school week to cut costs... imagine.

One of the primary pieces contributing to the disintegration of the Soviet Union was unsustainable military spending. Infrastructure suffered. Social programs suffered. Education and health care suffered while they continued to spend on the military until everything collapsed.


Michael Mahoney said...

I'm not really sure where you get your numbers. According to the OMB, the largest slice of Obama's 2010 budget "pie" is Health and Human Services at 19.6%. Defense comes in next at 18.74%. Veterans Affairs come in next at around 16%, but your point there is moot. If those guys weren't getting benefits from the VA, they'd be on Social Security and Medicare, so the VA more properly ties to HHS than DOD spending.

Moreover, the HHS spending is mandatory, required by law. We can't possibly cut it (when we should) and all defense spending is discretionary. If we fixed the cost overruns and poor management of the SSA, VA and Medicare, we might be getting somewhere. But the administration has no interest in "fixing" it, they just want to recklessly fund it.

Your source's number of 54% is preposterous on it's face. Mandatory spending accounts for 2.1 trillion out of a 3.7 trillion budget. You can't have both non-discretionary and discretionary spending over 50%. Unless, of course, that's some new Democrat math.

roy said...

Well Michael, first off you missed the point. I gave the 20% figure and the 54%. In either case, I said it needs to be on the table.
Now to say that "if those guys weren't getting benefits from the VA, they'd be on Social Security and Medicare, so the VA more properly ties to HHS than DOD spending" and if toads had wings they wouldn't bump their tails on the road... but toads don't have wings and the cost to care for a 20 year old with a traumatic brain injury due to a roadside bomb in Iraq is a military cost, not HHS as is military retirement, death benefits, etc.
Yes, HHS spending is mandatory... and that s why there is discussion regarding changing the law to cut it. Yes, defense spending is discretionary, but when was the last time you heard serious political discourse about a serious cut to the military budget? And under Bush, the entire Iraq/Afghanistan debacle was off budget so it didn't even show up in his numbers. It is my understanding that at least Obama is including those costs.

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