Why Is The Pentagon Off The Table?

Screen shot 2012-12-31 at 1.11.30 PM

The Pentagon now spends more money than it did confronting the Soviets under Reagan or at the peak of fighting in Vietnam. Yep, those are real inflation-adjusted dollars. So why are we hearing nothing in Washington about a huge part of the spending binge that, along with the Great Recession, has bankrupted the country? Some say it's because no one wants to force sacrifices on the troops, which is an admirable position, given their extraordinary sacrifices over the past decade. But here's the spending on the troops for the same period, as outlined by "simple serf" at the Daily Kos:

Screen shot 2012-12-31 at 1.16.04 PM

I should say I don't agree with simple serf that entitlements should be left alone. They are the core driver of future debt. But I do not see why the Pentagon is immune from real sacrifice, when we have no serious military rival in the world and are spending more in real terms than we did when Reagan out-spent the Soviets.

So let's stipulate no pay cuts for troops. We still have almost 90 percent of the most expansive war budget since the Second World War intact. And we cannot touch any of that? The sequester crudely cuts $500 billion from war spending over ten years, and that is regarded as obviously unworkable. But if we simply retained the war spending we did in 1960 – at the height of the early Cold War – we'd be cutting the decade budget by a few trillion dollars. Eisenhower was onto something, wasn't he, when he spoke of an unstoppable military-industrial complex that threatens democratic life? Not to say: the country's entire fiscal health.

History is replete with examples of great powers who undid themselves by spending on war and empire – in the end often with debt – while neglecting the core concerns of the domestic economy. Hegemonic America is following imperial Spain and imperial Britain into the same morass. But it is a choice, not a fate.