How I learned to stop worrying and love the national debt.
The United States Joint Forces Command has released its Joint Operating Environment report, meant to anticipate future challenges to the U.S. military and how they might be met. The report paints the familiar picture of federal government spending, and particularly its spending on interest on the national debt, rising and rising, while tax revenue stays flat, then concludes:
The foregoing issues of trade imbalance and government debt have historic precedents that bode ill for future force planners. Habsburg Spain defaulted on its debt some 14 times in 150 years and was staggered by high inflation until its overseas empire collapsed. Bourbon France became so beset by debt due to its many wars and extravagances that by the contributing social stresses resulted in its overthrow by revolution. Interest ate up 44% of the British Government budget during , inhibiting its ability to rearm against a resurgent Germany. Unless current trends are reversed, the U.S. will face similar challenges, anticipating an ever-growing percentage of the U.S. government budget going to pay interest on the money borrowed to finance our deficit spending.
A more immediate implication of these twin deficits will likely mean far fewer dollars available to spend on defense. In defense spending accounted for some 49% of total government expenditures, but by had dropped to 20% of total government spending. Following current trend lines, by the defense budget will likely consume between 2.6 percent and 3.1 percent of GDP — significantly lower than the 1990s average of 3.8%. Indeed, the Department of Defense may shrink to less than ten percent of the total Federal budget.…
This “shrinking” of the military budget the report decries, it typically represents as a shrinking of the percentage of government spending that goes to the military — and this is more a factor of increased government spending and expanded government in general than a hint of any actual real reduction in military spending. In other words: They’re getting a smaller slice of a bigger pie, and getting fatter than ever.
But it’s true that budget pressures will become more severe in the coming years, to the point where the now-sacred Pentagon budget may indeed go on the chopping block along with everything else.
My worry, though, is that instead of seeing our bloated military as a liability that the government should cast overboard in pursuit of budget sanity, our political class will come to see it as an asset that we should rent out dearly to the highest bidder in order to recoup our investment. Who wants Kashmir? Pakistan? India? China? How badly do you want it? We can help you get it if the price is right.