Democrats and Republicans agree that the federal deficit is a serious problem for the stability of American economy. But over the past few weeks, both parties have fought major battles on how to address this problem. The Democrats won the first round when last week, when President Obama signed a six-month extension of emergency unemployment benefits, surmounting Republican objections that the $34 billion measure would add too much to the deficit. The conflict this week is over the extension of the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire December 31. As expected, Republicans are fighting for extension of the entire package while many Democrats, including President Obama, vowed to keep them for families making less than $250,000 a year. It is estimated that keeping the tax cuts for households that make more than $250 thousand a year will cost about $40 billion a year. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner argued that tax increases on the richest Americans are necessary "to make some progress bringing down our long-term deficits." $34 billion and $40 billion are surely not trivial sums. But if Congress and the Administration are sincere about tackling the deficit, it should confront the biggest expense of federal funds: military spending.
An Unlikely Pairing
The United States is far and away the world's leader in military spending. In 2009, America spent over $663 billion on defense. That massive amount equals 4.3% of our 2008 Gross Domestic Product (GDP). That number is sure to grow next year. With two wars raging in the Middle East, President Obama has asked Congress for a 2.2% increase in military spending for next year, bringing the total to $708 billion. Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii has stated that there is "no way" Congress will reduce military spending while these wars continue. Thankfully, a few members of Congress realize that the incredible amount of money funneled to the Pentagon must be reduced. Representatives Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), two men on opposite ends of the political spectrum, have united to call for serious cuts to military spending. Opposing Frank and Paul is Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Secretary Gates is attempting to forestall major cuts with hollow promises of "increased efficiency." Trusting an agency that has losttrillions of dollars to engineer serious cuts on its own is foolish. Americans of every political ideology need to unite like Frank and Paul have to reduce the amount of U.S. military spending.