When Willie Sutton, the famous bank robber, was asked why he robbed banks, he replied, “Because that’s where the money is.”
President Obama is violating the “Willie Sutton rule” in seeking to curb the federal budget deficit by freezing discretionary spending, but exempting the military/national security budget from that freeze.
Here is a letter to the editor by Jean Athey, Peace Action Montgomery County (Maryland) and national Peace Action Board Member (she sent it to the Washington Post but they declined to publish it):
To reduce the deficit, President Obama plans to freeze expenditures on social needs during a time of desperation for many in our nation, but he will exempt funding that is related to national security. Of the total discretionary part of the budget (i.e., the part that is not required by law), “national security” now consumes 55%*. Where do all those billions go?
Here are some of the ways we are spending our “national security” dollars: The U.S. operates about 1,000 foreign military bases**, at a cost of about $250 billion per year***. Almost every week there is another news story on military contractor waste, fraud or abuse. The war spending continues to go up. We have a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons that costs billions to maintain, and we continue to buy weapons systems that in today’s world we don’t need.
If President Obama wants to cut the deficit, he should consider reducing the number of foreign bases, cracking down on war profiteering, eliminating nuclear and other unnecessary weapons, and he should bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
We currently have a military budget that is higher than at any time since World War II, higher even than during the Viet Nam war and the cold war. Why?
Conservative historian and retired Army colonel Andrew Bacevich has suggested that we reduce the U.S. military budget to a level that does not exceed the combined military spending of all ten of the next highest-spending countries in the world. If we did that, we’d be cutting our military budget by 31%–a much better way to reduce the deficit. Surely, the U.S. doesn’t need to spend vast sums on the military when our only enemy is a rag-tag bunch of cave dwellers and when we have such pressing needs at home.