Compared to past eras in American history, is defense spending too high? Certainly not. Historically, national defense has always taken up a higher percentage of the federal budget than now. This graph from the Heritage Foundation tells the story:
As the Heritage Foundation notes,
The historical record reveals that, today, we consider defense spending to be a lower priority than did the U.S. Congress in the first 70 years of the Republic (see chart). From 1792 to 1860, defense spending as a percentage of the federal budget averaged 48.1 percent, and—even in the most peaceful times—never fell below 23 percent. The next most important items were the costs of the country’s few federal infrastructure programs (e.g., post offices and post roads), maintaining the federal government’s buildings and staff, and the costs of maintaining diplomats abroad.
Moreover, the original impetus for calling the Constitutional Convention in 1787 centered on growing security threats facing the newly independent American states. The Constitution makes national security a main priority. Congress shall have the power to “declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.… To raise and support Armies.… To provide and maintain a Navy.… To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.”
In short, the federal government was created primarily for the purpose of national defense, so it is only natural that defense spending has always taken a high priority. As the graph shows, current defense spending–at 23% of the national budget–is at a historic low. The reason for this is clear–entitlements and non-defense discretionary spending are chewing through tax-payer money at record rates. The War on Terror did not dig this hole we are in–a profligate President and Congress did.
In this current discussion about budgets, we have forgotten what the federal government is all about. It is not Santa Claus dispensing presents to Americans, regardless of whether they have been bad or nice: It is a bulwark protecting the American people. If we have to cut the budget, the last thing that should be touched is national defense–and by this we mean the Department of Defense, and not pretenders such as the Department of Homeland Security or the TSA. Obamacare, a burgeoning federal bureaucracy, several cabinet level departments, earmarks, pork and corporate welfare all have to go. There also needs to be entitlement reform.
Is the current Congress up to this challenge, or is it going to take the “easy way out” and simply gut the military?
(H/t Bluegrass Pundit)
- The Dems Target Defense and Your Wallet Again (americanthinker.com)
- 82% Against Supercommittee Cutting Defense Spending (politicons.net)
- National Defense Faces Severe Cuts (markamerica.com)
- McCain Fights Looming Defense Cuts (commentarymagazine.com)