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The Economics of Federal Defense Policy – Political Science
Three out of four Americans polled in the 1992 election year believed that the United States was heading in the wrong direction. With such an overwhelming consensus, the country hired a new president to attempt to fix the vital issues at hand. Although both Republicans and Democrats believed that the United States was still the “sole superpower”, the people of the United States saw that their quality of life was deteriorating. In fact, the signs of economic, social, and political decay were undeniable.
For example, the wages of production workers in America have declined twenty percent in the last twenty years due to large corporations shifting their operations overseas. Over thirty-seven million Americans are without health insurance due to its exploding costs. There are about sixty million people below the poverty line; fourteen million of which are children. Our crime rate is at an all-time high as well as the population in our prison system. The United States has nineteen preceding nations that have lower infant mortality rates. Among the twenty most developed countries in the world, the United States has the highest divorce rate and the highest teen pregnancy rate. The most incredulous fact of all is that the Pentagon continues to absorb twenty percent of the federal budget-over a third of which is spent protecting Europe against an enemy that no longer exists.
In fact, that is the most probable source of America’s problems: the budget. Forty-seven percent of the national federal budget is spent for a military expense. The National Defense, the topic of this paper, is what is stealing money from the poor in our own country and lessening our status as the “sole superpower” of the world.
The National Defense was a program initiated from day one of the United States’ existence. It was a program designed to protect the people of the world, but primarily the people of this nation. It was designed to protect human rights and the ideals of democracy and capitalism. However, in lieu of recent events, the use for such a program is now debatable. The world has changed significantly and dramatically within the last five years. The threat of an evil empire such as the Soviet Union is no longer; the Cold War is over.
Ultimately, demilitarization is needed for many reasons. Both Democrats and Republicans alike supported the development of a gigantic-industrial complex. Both are content with only minor budget reductions. However, more drastic measures should be taken in order to move this country into the twenty-first century successfully. Military spending should be slashed, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) should be dismantled, and the other vestiges of the Cold War should be removed.
This graph displays the United States’ military spending compared to that of its Top Ten contenders. It shows how overwhelming and exacerbated the United States’ spending really is. Russia and the United Kingdom spend about two hundred fifty billion dollars less than the United States. In fact, there is a twenty-five billion dollar difference between the United States and all the other nations combined.
This next graph again shows the outrageous spending habits of the United States and its Department of Defense. This graph displays the United States compared to its potential enemies or adversaries. The differences are astronomical. Russia, the only country that comes close to comparison, is still a mere two hundred billion dollars behind.
The threat of the Cold War is extinct. For over forty years, the military budget has been driven by the Soviet threat. Over half the budget was devoted to defeating a sudden attack by the Warsaw Pact nations on Germany. Now, the ex-Soviets want to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In the words of General Colin Powell,” The Red Army is no more.” (1) In fact, the economy in the post-Soviet nations is so terrible that the soldiers are selling their weapons for food. Malnutrition is incredibly prevalent. According to the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), if Russia was to be taken over by a dictator, it would take ten years for them to reconstitute a military threat to the west.
The facts are clear. The United States is surrounded by friendly nations on either side as well as two gigantic oceans. Most of the nations that are strong enough to be considered a threat are now considered friendly nations. The possibility of any potential enemies coming close to competing with the defense tactics and forces of the United States is virtually impossible.
These statistics are also evident to the politicians in Washington. The Bush Administration and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1992 invented the new term for the enemy in order to avoid a dramatic change to the country’s economics. They created the “threat of the unknown.” (2). The military changed its focus to that of maintaining peace and harmony abroad. Sending troops to Bosnia and Somalia are two prime examples of the military’s effort to provide humanitarian relief. In a meeting with the House Armed Services Committee, General Colin Powell brought forth a list of the military events that had occurred over the past five years. Events included items such as “Just Cause,” the capture of Manuel Noriega in Panama; Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf; “Operation GTMO,” which sent seventeen hundred troops to Cuba in order to care for Haitian refugees; drug operations in Latin America; “Provide Hope,” which delivered supplies to the former Soviet Union; rescue and relief missions in Somalia and Zaire; and “Firey Vigil,” which intimidated coup plotters in the Philippines. It is obvious to see to even the average human being that the two hundred fifty billion dollars that the United States spends on military defense could be spent better and more efficiently at home.
This graph demonstrates how exactly the government spends our money. A staggering forty-seven percent of the budget is allocated for military expenses with fifty-four percent spent on defense alone. As shown, only six percent of the military budget is spent providing and caring for the men and women who fought for our country in the Vietnam, Korean, and Gulf wars.
In fact, Les Aspin, the Defense Secretary under Clinton, believes that people like Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Kim II Sung of North Korea are fueling the defense budget. The remarkable fact is that their militaries couldn’t withstand an attack from the United States ever. The reason why they pose such a threat is because of the potential nuclear warfare. The only nuclear bomb ever dropped was in August of 1945. The United States sees these men as mad-men with the nuclear power to destroy the world. However, I wonder what good will come of the United States’ two hundred fifty billion dollar army when the entire world has been destroyed by the push of a button.
Aspin also realized that it was entirely possible for the United States to fight two regional wars simultaneously against Iraq and North Korea, while sustaining the capacity for a Panama-like intervention in this hemisphere, a Kurdish-level relief operation, reserve forces for the possibility of an extension on one of the regional wars, and a foundation of strategic nuclear forces, continental forces, new weapons research and development, base troops in Europe, and top-level operations and training. This seems excessive and unrealistic due to the lack of this scenario actually taking place. It seems that it would be far more beneficial to utilize this extra money in other areas of need: reducing the deficit, caring for the elderly, etc.
The ultimate goal for any progressive politician would be to convert the economy from a war-time economy to a civilian-based economy. It is very important for our future presidents to figure how to reallocate the defense funds to something productive for the twenty-first century. Although, politicians who might strive to do so may have problems being reelected. In the process of slashing the defense budget, many jobs will be destroyed. The people of this country would have to patient with a politician who attempted to change the status quo. Often, people expect immediate change. This kind of change cannot be accomplished within the four year presidential term. It would take cooperation from the House, the Senate, and the President for a longer period of time than four years. It would be a long and potentially painful process that would hopefully accomplish many achievements. It is time for the country to realize that the Cold War is over and that it is time for a new way of life.
President Clinton has attempted to reallocate some of the defense budget funds to programs like the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program. However, such a task is only the proverbial drop in the bucket. Funds for education, the environment , and housing are expected to decline over the next five years. There have been no commitments to research on electric cars and telecommunications. There has not been any solid plans concerning the implementation of mass transit. Undoubtedly, these programs are vital to a new and powerful technological future. Essentially, military research continues to dominate the bulk of the federal budget. This leaves only limited resources for discovering alternative energy sources, efficient manufacture, and “green” technologies which are surely to dominate the markets of the future.
This graph adequately shows how little the government is doing to help the people of this country. While the United States ranks at the top of teen pregnancies and divorce, only a tiny portion of the government spending is dedicated towards family support. Again, the defense budget’s staggering statistics demonstrate its absurdity. Employment training, housing needs, and nutrition assistance are much more mandatory than fighting the nonexistent Cold War enemy.
The United States must confront several issues in order to convert to a civilian-based economy. First, painless ways to move to a civilian-based economy must be identified. Second, the ethos of the “intelligence community” need to be changed by disbanding parts of it and opening its research to international usage. Third, a comprehensive nuclear and conventional weapons disarmament should be implemented where all nations take part. Fourth, formulate policies that take account of the United Nations to ensure that groups and individuals can be represented on issues of trade, the environment, transnational peacemaking, international citizenship for the stateless, and human rights. However, it is rather unlikely that a post-war social reconstruction would generate the enthusiasm and national purpose that the Cold War did. It is easy to see that the patriotic way a country comes together to fight an enemy is far easier than finding a way to agree on issues such as peace and human rights.
As it is shown in the following graph, twenty percent of the federal budget is spent on military expenses while thirty percent is allocated to social expenses such as education, housing, social security, and welfare. In other comparable countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Sweden, the ratios show a dramatic difference in priorities. Sweden could prove to be an example in the way we should restructure our country. Less than ten percent of their federal budget is spent on defense, while an overwhelming 65 percent is spent on various social concerns.
Fortunately, President Clinton is finally moving in the right direction. He is attempting to cut back on defense as well as seeking economic activities to replace the military-industrial complex. He plans to reduce military spending by one hundred eighteen million dollars. Over 460,000 jobs have disappeared since 1990 in the military arena. Military bases have been closed and sometimes sold to the private sector. $3.9 billion dollars have been spent on dual-use programs, or programs that incorporate military technology and equipment for non-military uses.
However, for every step forward there seems to be more than a few steps backward. 24,000 contaminated facilities are needing to be cleaned at the cost of $100 to $400 billion due to toxic spills and nuclear clean-up. Clinton promised “dollar for dollar” reinvestment for conversion opportunities which was never implemented. This would be a fantastic reward for those interested in future technologies.
It is definitely not an easy task that any president has. He is faced with the dilemma of reelection possibilities. If they attempt to change the country for the better, they face the problem of being despised for their ambitions. Even if they do not do anything and just maintain the status quo they probably will not be reelected either.
At this point, President Clinton should try to do several constructive things in attempt to convert the economy. He should determine the spending priorities of the people of this nation and figure which of those are indicative and vital to a decent society. Education and training are two great causes. Literacy rates are on the decline and truancy and drop-outs are on the rise. Creating infrastructure and communications for the twenty-first century is also important. The United States is the only first world country without an advanced form of rapid mass transit. Alternative resources and energies need to be discovered in order to prevent people like Saddam Hussein from controlling the current resources. Our oil suppliers in the Middle East are deteriorating at a rapid rate – it would be wise to start seeking a fuel alternative. The president would need to express that it will be a wrenching process and encourage public investment. Whatever the cost, sweeping changes need to occur in order for the United States to be a continuing world leader.
There is no easy solution to the problems that lie ahead. It is a rapidly changing world with swift and stern economic competition. It requires risk and change on our part. The answer that lies to the path of success is the reduction of military spending and the reallocation of that money into technology and basic internal improvement. It is as if the United States needs to issue a temporary isolationist policy, a “closed for remodeling” sign if you will. So many things could be done to make this country such a better place. So many lives could be saved from poverty, illiteracy, addictions, and violence if only the military budget could be spent on education.
In order to be a successful nation, we are going to have to trust a politician to lead us there. It would have to a person that is dedicated to creating the best possible nation ever; strong at home and fierce in the international markets. It would be the ultimate reconstruction period with a complete revamping of our budget and goal as a country. I just don’t know if its possible. It seems so idealistic. But, it is an exciting prospect none the less.
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Norton & Co., NY, London, 1994.
2. Highwire: From the Backroads to the Beltway. By John Brummett. Hyperion, NY,
3. State of the Union 1994: The Clinton Administration and the Nation in Profile. By
Richard Caplan and John Feffer. Westview Press, Boulder, 1994.
4. The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House. By Bob Woodward. Simon & Schuster, NY, 1994.
1State of the Union 1994, Page 67.
2State of the Union 1994, Page 68.
AState of the Union 1994, Page 63.
BState of the Union 1994, Page 69.
CState of the Union 1994, Page 83.
DState of the Union 1994, Page 73.
EState of the Union 1994, Page 91.
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