The White House released a report on Friday detailing how devastating congressionally mandated cuts to defense spending would be, if Congress doesn’t agree to avoid sequestration.
There has been a lot of scaremongering from Washington about how cutting defense budgets will cause defense corporations to have to lay off workers and therefore contribute to a stagnant economy and high unemployment.
But estimates of a rise in unemployment from these proposed spending cuts have been systematically exaggerated, writes Lawrence J. Korb, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. And besides, Korb points out, “defense spending is not a jobs program.” At least, it’s not supposed to be.
The jobs that these rent-seeking defense corporations maintain only show what big business can do with diverted wealth. As the Cato Institute’s Chris Preble wrote recently, “It’s easy to focus exclusively on the companies and individuals hurt by the cuts and forget that the taxed wealth that funded them is being employed elsewhere.”
The proposed cuts to defense budgets are, frankly, puny. Overall defense industry profits have skyrocketed since 9/11 and the harshest scenario for defense cuts would put budgets back at about the 2007 level. But only after some time; after all, we’re talking here about a decrease in the rate of growth in projected defense spending. So budgets will still be growing. Just less fast.
The minuscule defense cuts being contemplated could easily target areas of waste. As a recent report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments found, while the source of growth in annual defense budgets since 2001 has been mostly (54%) due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, much of the rest has been spent on wasteful superfluous weapons technology, bloated salaries and benefits plans, and expensive peacetime operating costs for the 900-plus military bases in 130-plus countries around the world.
But will we be less safe? The White House made clear the proposed cuts were a threat to national security. The truth is that the US could cut defense spending by half tomorrow and still outspend every other country in the world.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and others have voiced concern that any decrease in spending would make it harder to face threats from the likes of Iran and North Korea, two countries with comparatively pathetic defense budgets and which present no credible threat.
Probably referring to China, Panetta has also mentioned the responsibility “to project our power in the world in order to make sure rising powers understand that the United States still has a strong defense.” This adheres closely to imperial grand strategy, which insists on a foreign policy actively militarist enough so as to prevent military competitors and keep all the world’s nation’s dependent on the U.S. as military superpower. Clearly, this has nothing to do with defending the country and wasting hundreds of billions of dollars on it every year is what is putting the country at risk. Not, as Washington would have you believe, making trivial cuts in the rate at which the war machine expands.