Jan 262011
Authors: Joe Vajgrt

In my column about terrorism and airport security screenings last week, I briefly touched on the issue of defense spending. This week, I want to expand on that issue.

In case you missed it, here is a brief recap of some of the numbers:

The U.S. military budget accounts for 46.8 percent of the entire world’s military spending. The exact figures are hard to quantify, but most estimates put our total military spending between $600 and $800 billion a year. This is more than the next 29 highest-spending nation COMBINED. The numbers would be even higher if not for the fact that nuclear weaponry falls under the category of the Department of Energy, and thus isn’t part of the Fiscal Year budget requests for military spending. Further complicating the issue is that combat operations (such as those in Afghanistan, and, until recently, Iraq) are considered separate requests that Congress approves independently from the annual military budget.

Regardless of the exact numbers, military spending is clearly out of control. With the national political discussion starting to focus on reducing the federal deficit, now is the time to finally do something about it.

In no way am I advocating for a weak defense program. Even with a drastically reduced budget, it is still possible to have a strong military presence. If we simply slashed the defense budget in half, we’d still be spending more than four times the amount of China, our next-closest military spending competitor.

While the ultimate goal should be to find ways to permanently cut spending across the board, it is in our best interests to reallocate that funding in the short term. The possibilities of what we could do with $300 to 400 billion a year seem almost limitless during these tumultuous economic times.

Not only could we afford to secure all of the international packages bound for the U.S. on passenger flights, but we could help secure our borders as well. Despite drastic differences of opinion on exactly what needs to be done to overhaul our nation’s outdated immigration laws, I’m willing to bet that most people from across the political spectrum would welcome the idea of enforcing our existing laws until Congress can reach some kind of consensus in drafting new immigration legislation.

We could also use some of that money to reinvest in the education of our own citizens. This is an intuitive idea both in the short run and for our long-term economic stability. It’s undeniable that an educated workforce is much more efficient and productive than an uneducated one. Being highly efficient and innovative is a necessity in today’s competitive global economy, and an educated public drives such innovation.

This money could also be used to spur job growth by repairing roads, bridges, and installing improved information technology infrastructure to help us catch up to the standards that western European nations are setting with their levels of broadband subscribers.

In a political environment where both sides are reluctant to work with one another while the federal deficit continues to skyrocket, we’re reaching a breaking point as a nation if we don’t do something to fix our budgetary issues soon.

Sadly, our political leaders continue to ignore the basic realities of our current situation. Instead of taking a serious look at how to fix our budgetary woes, they continue to bicker over partisan non-issues that perpetually get in the way of actual productive political discourse.

When Republicans took control of the House last November, party leaders vowed that an “adult conversation” regarding the deficit was on the horizon. For a litany of reasons, though, cuts in military spending are off the table for Republicans.

As a nation, if we want to decrease our skyrocketing deficit and return to our past economic success, we must re-prioritize where and how we spend our available funds while cutting back expenditures across the board. Wasteful defense spending is the elephant in the room at this point, and it needs to be addressed.

Joe Vajgrt is a junior journalism major. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 3:36 pm

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