Extravagent Defense for our Starving Nation

The Wall Street Journal published a series of charts explaining President Obama’s federal budget proposal.

It’s thrilling to see such a large amount of money allocated in two categories:

  • $82.2 billion reserved for Health and Human Services, and
  • $77.4 billion for Education.

Those social services rank 2nd and 3rd, respectively. Can you guess what took 1st Place? And how much could be allocated to it?

Defense. The budget for national defense takes the top spot with $670.6 billion.

Background: I know there is a need for a defense budget and a standing military. I don’t dispute that one bit. What I believe needs more explanation is why we spend significantly more than any other nation (or furthermore, more than many other nations’ combined military spending). Moving on…

If the chart published by the Wall Street Journal based on data from the Office of Management and Budget, Associated Press, and Dow Jones Newswires is correct along with my simple addition, the rest of the budget totals $572.3 billion, or $98.3 billion less than the defense budget.

Remember you can look at the Wall Street Journal’s charts for yourself, but for your information here and now, the budget areas by rank are:

  1. Defense
  2. Health & Human Services
  3. Education
  4. State and other international programs
  5. Veterans Affairs
  6. Homeland Security
  7. Housing and Urban Development
  8. Energy
  9. Agriculture
  10. Justice
  11. Treasury
  12. Transportation
  13. Labor
  14. Interior
  15. Commerce
  16. “Other”

Hmm. Can’t we lump a few more of those different areas into Defense? Veterans Affairs? Homeland Security? Let’s do that for the sake of argument and see how military matters continue to encumber the nation.

  • Defense + Veterans Affairs + Homeland Security = 62 percent, or $772.8 billion
  • Everything else = 38 percent, or $470.1 billion

Or let’s split the budget into three broad categories and review those allocations:

Defense and Military = 62 percent, or $772.8 billion
Social Services = 20 percent, or $247.1 billion
Infrastructure = 12 percent, or $148.4 billion
Other = 6 percent, or $74.5 billion

Do you feel safer knowing that 62 percent of the country’s $1.25 trillion budget is reserved for defense and military spending? Our you proud of the education your child receives at public school? What about those “other” public schools everyone is talking about?

Side note: When parents are asked about the state of public education, they often reply that their child’s school is excellent but that schools are generally in bad shape. See also: lawyers, doctors.

How much do other nations spend on their defense? Here is an unofficial and unscientific peek courtesy of the Internet:

The United States is far and away the global leader in defense spending. In 2007, the most recent year for which complete data is available, the United States approved $660 billion in defense budget authority (FY09 dollars). This figure includes funding for DOD’s base budget, DOE-administered nuclear weapons activities, and supplemental appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • With its budget of $660 billion, the United States spent more on defense in 2007 than the next 14 highest spending countries in the world combined.
  • The United States accounted for 43% of the world’s total defense spending in 2007.
  • In 2007, the United States spent 4.6 times more on defense than China, 7.7 times more than Russia, 85.2 times more than Iran, and 100 times more than North Korea.

    Source: The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

Wikipedia’s list of countries ranked by military expenditures (as a percent of the 2009 military expenditures vs the 2008 Gross Domestic Product) seems to corroborate claim from the Center for Arms Control. Here are the Top Five:

  1. United States – $663 billion, or 4.3 percent of its GDP
  2. China – $98.8 billion or 2 percent of its GDP
  3. United Kingdom – $69.2 billion, or 2.5 percent of its GDP
  4. France – $67.3 billion, or 2.3 percent of its GDP
  5. Russian Federation – $61 billion, or 3.5 percent of its GDP

And those are our allies. The first nation that could be considered “on shaky ground” is Saudi Arabia ranked at #8 with its defense budget of $39.2 billion.

Could someone please explain to me again why we are spending so much on defense and so little on making this nation a better place to live? Why are so many people in America poverty-stricken, malnourished, hungry, uneducated, and unemployed?

Why can’t we shift $100 billion or so to educate and improve the quality of life of U.S. citizens and less money making life a hassle for them in the name of defense and homeland security?


A Closing Note: I reserve the right to be wrong, but I think this is pretty close. This article is poorly researched and was written in about 45 minutes after getting rankled by a tweet about the White House budget proposal.

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