Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Discretionary Spending?

This is a long one so be sure you have time to read it and study it. I am still doing research.

I started researching defense spending as part of the US Budget. Really I wanted to see percentages through the years since WWII. But, it is hard to find good solid numbers. I wanted to be ready when the Congressional speeches focused on how spending for defense is not “spending” in the same way the Recovery Act is “spending”. Why the debt incurred for defense is not as bad as debt incurred for other discretionary items in the budget. Is there such a thing as defense “PORK”?

Being a liberal made it harder. Like the media today I found myself bending over backwards, trying hard to be “fair and balanced”. Yet, I find the statistics, especially from the last years, are skewed. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been in the defense budgets.

Why am I trying so hard to prove a dove, or such a terrible thing as a liberal, can be fair? I am not sure. It may be liberals, real liberals, always listen to the other side; always give the benefit of the doubt to other ideas. After reading and rereading former Republican President Eisenhower's speech from 1961, I decided to go for it. Sometimes called the military-industrial warning speech, the speech contains the following words:

“...We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. …(Pres. Eisenhower 1961)

These past weeks during the discussions of the Recovery Act I waited for someone to bring up the costs of “defense” and someone to counter with the “jobs lost”. Sure enough I read it in articles about the F22. The original fighter was planned in the early 80's during the Cold War. The plane, like most defense spending, is over budget and perhaps has little use these days. Apparently President Obama must soon make a decision regarding the inclusion of the plane in his budget. The cut will affect somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 jobs in these days of high unemployment. Gottcha! Eisenhower's words ringing so true in my ears. “Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.”

The above quotes from the speech certainly warned perhaps with a sense of fatalism of our times. The General continues:
“Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war -- as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years -- I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.”...

The speech ends with this prayer:
“To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing aspiration:
We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.”
Public Papers of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960, p. 1035- 1040
( http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst306/documents/indust.html )

Below are a few links so that you may investigate for yourselves how well we fulfilled the “prayerful...aspiration”.

The above link is great for graphics and text on US Military Spending in a variety of ways. I find this article on US military spending compared to world military spending mind boggling.

Is the article on Defense as a part of discretionary spending in the budget
containing this quotation:
“ February 4, 2008

The Fiscal Year 2009 budget request includes $997 billion for discretionary spending, money the President and Congress must decide and act to spend each year, roughly $541 billion of which will go to "National Defense" (Function 050). The "National Defense" category of the federal budget for FY'09 represents over half of all discretionary spending (54 percent). [NOTE: These totals do NOT include funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. If the $70 billion requested for the "Global War on Terror" were included in both the request for the Department of Defense and the total for discretionary spending, the percentage of Pentagon spending of total discretionary spending would jump to over 57 percent.]

Want to read the 2009 budget for defense? It has lots of pictures and is easy to read-not like the old days. Of course you are just getting the easy parts.

To me, we have not done well as “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry...” to “..compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. …”(Pres. Eisenhower 1961). Perhaps all we can do is just keep trying.

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