There's Always Money in the Defense Budget

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 8 2013 8:25 AM

There's Always Money in the Defense Budget

1357651529194

David Brooks writes rather bombastically that recent fiscal cliff talks prove we'll never cut Medicare enough to afford it and never raise taxes enough to pay for it, so the Obama administration is sending Chuck Hagel to the Pentagon to implement radical cuts in the defense budget.

I don't know that any of that's true, but it certainly seems like a smart plan to me. As conservatives generally point out whenever the context isn't military spending, it's very damaging to human welfare to have the government tax productive labor in order to spend money on something useless. So given that population aging is certain to lead to growing pressures on the federal budget, it's important to make up as much of the financing gap as possible by cutting spending elsewhere rather than with new taxes. And per the great Peterson Foundation chart above, the U.S. military budget is really large. Obviously, you don't want to cut the military all the way to the bone lest you invite an invasion from Mexico or Canada. But we're not even close to being overwhelmed by Canadian arms. And it's striking that if you look at non-U.S. defense spending, a majority of it appears to be by U.S. treaty allies—NATO members, Japan, Australia, South Korea, etc.—so we really do seem very safe.

Obviously, this involves some considerations outside the Moneybox framework. Maybe Mexico's military is unusually cost effective and we have no choice but to spend 50 times what Mexico spends in order to defend ourselves adequately. But from a pure budgetary point of view, this really is a strikingly large pool of money.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.