Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How Expensive is Stopping Endless Military Spending, Anyway? (Part 9 of 13)


(Note: This is the ninth of a series of posts dealing with Bernie Sanders's platform. For the first installment, go here)

I saw this posted on Twitter the other day, and I think it's worth taking a second look at, because it demonstrates a remarkable lack of understanding of Bernie Sanders's platform. Senator Sanders makes it very clear how we will pay for everything that he proposes, but understanding the nuance of this requires first that I disabuse you of a common misconception.

There are many in this country who decry government spending as if the government is incapable of doing anything well. But the critical issue of our times, as Robert Reich eloquently explains on a regular basis, is not how big government is. The critical issue of our times (and Bernie Sanders, more than any other Presidential candidate, understands this) is who government is working for. Whether we're talking about spending in the private sector or spending by the government, at the end of the day, everything that is spent in our economy counts as a cost for America. If Wal-Mart spends $1,000,000 improving the efficiency of the intersections near its stores, it has the same effect on our economy as if the state, local, or federal government spends $1,000,000 on an identical project.

So, with that in mind, how does America pay for Stopping Endless Military Spending, as described in the flyer pictured above? Let's take a look:


Here's another topic where the suggestion actually saves us some money. But how much? In 2014, the U.S. spent $610 billion on the military. By way of comparison, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, the United Kingdom, India, and Germany, the nations ranked second, third, fourth, fifth, six, seventh, and eighth in military spending, between the seven of them, spent $601 billion. We could trim $9 billion from our military budget and still outspend the next seven countries combined, at least three of whom are legitimately our allies. That's ludicrous.

Obviously, military spending is politically sacrosanct, and with good reason. People are terrified. They aren't terrified with good reason, but they're terrified, and we have to take them as they are. People will object to reductions in military spending because keeping us safe is expensive, and requires maintaining our advantage technologically and in terms of military kit and manpower. Reductions in military spending are dodgy prospects because, You only get to err by under-defending the country once.

Fortunately, the current U.S. military is full of wasteful programs and bloated overspending. $53 billion of the Pentagon's budget goes to healthcare, which could certainly be reduced when Medicare for All goes into effect. The Pentagon spends about 40% of its budget on overhead, which is well above the cross-industry-average of 25%. Reducing overhead to average levels could save $90 billion. Ultimately, there's plenty of room for reductions in spending.

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