Representative Government or Paid Representation?

Expeditionary_Fighting_VehicleBy Mark Kneubuhl –

(May 29, 2012)  Once again, our form of representative government in the US is not working.  Case in point: Defense spending and the budget.  While both liberals and conservatives continue to widen the ideology gap with talking points, real Americans from both sides of the aisle are coming closer to a surprising consensus.

Based on a survey of 665 Americans, a new joint study published by the Stimson Center revealed that when presented with arguments for and against cutting the defense budget, nine-tenths of Democrats and two-thirds of Republicans want to cut it.  Assuming 50/50 representation, that’s 78% in favor of cuts!

spending graphIn 2011 the United States Military budget was $711 billion dollar. On the top ten list of global defense spenders, the US was first, roughly equal to the combined budgets of the other nine countries.

In order, they are: China, Russia, Great Britain, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany and Brazil.

The US is also number one in per capita defense spending at $2,141 per person.  On this same list the country with the ‘best bang for your buck’ is India, which spends only $30 per person on its military.

Some practical considerations for reduction of defense spending

– Do we need to have a strong and continued presence in Europe, decades after the end of the cold war?

– Where hardware is concerned, do we still need the Expeditionary Force Fighting Vehicle which is 15 years behind schedule and is viewed in its current state as “highly unreliable.” Do we need to build more Navy ships when we already have a navy that is larger than the next top-ten navies combined, all of which are of our allies? Do we need to build more stealth fighters when we have 20 times as many such fighters as China?

– Pentagon management levels have grown considerably, from seventeen layers a decade ago to about thirty levels of redundant management today. We now have almost 1,000 general and admirals in our armed forces, up 13% in the past 15 years, while the number of people in our armed forces has gone down over the same time period.

– Every management layer at the Pentagon is larger than it was during the height of the Cold War. As an example, a study from Professor Paul Light of NYU estimates that there were 78 deputy assistant secretaries of defense in 1960 and there are 530 today.

– There are more military musicians in the military’s marching bands than there are members in the State Department’s Foreign Service. Pentagon accountants are ten-times that number. (But they probably need the latter!)

–  And let’s not forget waste and abuse involving political cronyism -where as an example, billions of cans of sodas were sent to Iraq, costing the American taxpayer five times the cost through exclusive private contracts. This happened while the military had (and still has), more than sufficient logistical capability to do the job for a fraction of the cost.

– As listed on the “Top 20 Federal Opportunities for FY 2012” by, the Department of Defense topped the list, accounting for $139.2 billion in private business and employment opportunities. This represents the fourth time in five years that Defense programs have dominated the list.

Many aspects of our defense budget make little sense, but could be explained by the fact than $130 million of lobbyist money is spent every year in an attempt to maintain and grow the country’s spending on military hardware.

And, if we did make considerable cuts in military spending and applied them to let’s say, American infrastructure and state-sponsored research and development of new technologies, lobbyists wouldn’t go away, they’d just push new products.

The common conservative argument, “Cuts in military spending will put our troops in harm’s way,” often stops democrats cold in their tracks. It’s almost unpatriotic to even question that statement.

While even the most liberal of liberals would agree that certain cuts could have that potential, they could possibly counter by saying: “Well then let’s stop involving ourselves in unnecessary wars.”

Recent polls have shown that that last statement is also overwhelmingly supported by a battle-weary public on both side of the political divide, while equal representation of that sediment in congress is not there.


Posted by at May 31, 2012
Filed in category: Economy, Politics, Society, and tagged with:

Comments are closed.