Sunday, April 3, 2011

Final thought (for now) on the budget and the military

With (finally) the onset of nicer weather, I have been hearing birds in the morning during my route. Chirp, chirp.

In a previous blog, I detailed that federal spending is divided into two main categories, mandatory (required spending per existing laws) and discretionary spending (where we choose to spend our funds). So, when I recently read an article that stated that discretionary spending for the 2011 federal budget was overwhelmingly being directed to the department of defense (something like 75%), I thought it necessary to investigate.

Towards that end, I found a very informative interactive graphic in a New York Times article. Cut and paste link below.

This graphic displays the 2011 federal budget by spending via blocks that are sized based on the amount allocated for each area. It is also color coded in that it indicates the percentage of increase or decrease for the 2011 budget over the 2010 budget. It is interactive in that you can place your cursor on each box to reveal the name of the category. And, at the top, there is a box that enables you to hide the mandatory spending categories to display only the areas of discretionary spending. It is very revealing!

First, if you look at it with all spending boxes "on", it is easy to see where the bulk of the federal budget is targeted; national defense, social security, medicare and an area called income security. Clicking on the "remove mandatory spending" button, presents the discretionary spending and confirms in stark contrast the high percentage of military spending that the article claims. The shear size of the box when compared to spending in all other areas would be comical if not for the fact that it reveals just how costly is our belief in might makes right. I encourage everyone to take a look at this graphic and decide for yourself if it reflects your priorities.

In conjunction with this discussion on the military, I recently began reading a book called "9/11/11: The Tenth Anniversary Attack" by Dr. Rocco Martino. It is a work of fiction but is executed by a writer who clearly knows his subject. In the book, Dr. Martino attempts to detail the strategies of our terrorist enemies, and our own government as we attempt to thwart their plans to inflict damage on our country. The plot takes the reader through the time of late 2010 up until the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and paints a possible picture of the destruction that may be heading our way.

Without revealing too many details about the book, there is one particular scene which spurred an unsettling thought on my part. The scene involves a conversation between two of the main characters in which they are discussing as fact how President Reagan toppled the Soviet empire by outspending them. I am not saying I disagree with the assertion that this was the sole cause of the fall of the Soviets as I think it is a bit simplistic, but I certainly agree that it was a factor. (It certainly led to the doubling of our national debt which so many conservatives today seem to overlook in their idolatry of Reagan's legacy).

What unsettled me was that perhaps our enemies are using the same philosophy against us, i.e trying to bankrupt us in our execution of the "war on terror". Again, the obvious fact that we have spent huge sums of money on the wars since 9/11 (not to mention lives) and that, again, this expenditure has as much to do with our growing national debt as anything, seems lost on the deficit hawks now in the spotlight. Perhaps our enemies' plan is to let us spend ourselves into bankruptcy by merely adding fuel to our "revengeful" fire via the occasional plot (foiled or successful, it doesn't matter). Now, as I review the budget boxes as demonstrated on the NY times graphic, it makes me even more concerned that perhaps my fear is not so outlandish.

At a time when federal, state and local budgets are under stress to decrease funding for the people of this country via education, health and human services, there seems no end to the money we will spend on the military. What better way to destroy a country than to let it collapse upon itself.

For readers interested in Dr. Martino's book, please refer to the following websites for information. (Dr. Martino's website) (the book site)

Or, for all you electronic book users, it is available on both Amazon (in digital and electronic form) and Barnes and Noble (in electronic form).

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