Defense Spending Can Be Wasteful Too
While the nation debates tax cuts and deficits, here's a look from a different angle.
With last week’s historic passage of new tax legislation in the Senate and yesterday’s motion in the House to go to tax conference, the Republican Party is well on its way to having a tax bill for President Donald Trump to sign before the end of this year.
While the legislation will represent the first overhaul of the tax code in over 30 years, questions abound, from both the Right and the Left, as to whether it will actually work once implemented. More than a few tax experts are still trying to wrap their heads around the particulars, especially since chunks of the 479 page document were crossed out and replaced with hand-written amendments at the last minute.
Perceptions aside, one of the major questions that hasn’t been answered by Republican lawmakers is how the lost revenue will be accounted for in future budgeting plans. While some, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, think the cuts will spur the economy, conservative organizations like the Tax Foundation believe the bill will add $500 billion to the nation’s deficit. More concerning is that many of the tax cuts will expire in a few years, which means that Congress will have to vote on extending them. Needless to say that isn’t a guarantee.
Which leads to our main concern. Throughout this whole process, in which the Senate vote came less than a month after the proposal was made and no hearings or testimony occurred, not one member of Congress even brought up defense spending reform.
It’s easy to see why. Earlier this year, in separate bills, the Senate and the House voted to increase defense spending to around $700 billion, way over the “sequestration” spending caps set in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Not many politicians want to be viewed as not supporting the troops so it’s not a surprise that proposed defense budgets continue to grow and grow and grow.
Defense expenditures are one of the areas that the Constitution specifically addresses when it comes to spending. Any veteran and more than a few others should understand the importance of having a force ready to take on enemies around the world. However, the question is how much is enough?
A cursory examination of the most recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) shows numerous opportunities where money can be saved. Out of the base budget, money could be saved by closing unneeded bases to cutting the officer corps in the Army and Navy to radically altering the procurement process for military weaponry. Changes in just these three areas alone would save the American taxpayer billions of dollars.
It’s important to note that defense allocations are but one symptom of a disease that permeates all federal spending. The nation’s budget problems aren’t because of defense waste (which absolutely does exist) but our budget problems infect defense spending — i.e., cronyism, pet projects, etc.
Most politicians love to push federal dollars to their states but that type of behavior is only exacerbating the national debt, which currently stands at $20.5 trillion dollars, or $170,000 per taxpayer. Only time will tell if our nation’s leaders decide to do the responsible thing or continue to spend the nation into oblivion — because the problem isn’t revenue; it’s spending.