Saturday, May 5, 2012

Welfare Waste versus Warfare Waste

A partial view of an Air Force graveyard

He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.

He says, “Be still (e.g., 'Stop fighting!'), and know that I am God...
                                            - Psalm 46:9-10 (NIV)

I frequently get emails lamenting the number of welfare tax dollars going to people too lazy to work. This is adding to our public debt, they say, and represents a crisis of epidemic proportions.

I don’t disagree with anyone concerned about actual welfare fraud, but can't help seeing it as a case of straining at gnats and swallowing camels.  When it comes to the level of waste that really adds to our national red ink, military spending is the far greater culprit.

It should also be noted that local welfare budgets don’t add to our federal debt, and even the money “wasted” quickly circulates back into the economy, whereas what is spent on such things as aircraft and ammunition is pretty much gone forever, to say nothing of the devastation and destruction they can cause.

Some years ago while visiting our daughter in her two-year term of voluntary service in Tucson, we drove past a desert site where some 4000 aircraft, mostly from the Vietnam war era, are mothballed in a bone yard covering literally hundreds of acres. Some are used for spare parts, but they are nevertheless a glaring symbol of the enormous waste that is a part of our multi-billion dollar military-industrial complex.

Here are some additional facts:

In 2010 the conservative Cato Institute stated that “every man, woman and child in the United States will spend more than $2,700 on (defense) programs and agencies next year. By way of comparison, the average Japanese spends less than $330; the average German about $520; China’s per capita spending is less than $100.”

According to the Hearst Newspapers, “(The Pentagon budget) dwarfs the combined defense budgets of U.S. allies and potential U.S. enemies alike.”

The National Journal’s Government Executive magazine claims “President (Obama) is on track to spend more on defense, in real dollars, than any other president has in one term of office since World War II... And in 2000, the Pentagon admitted it has lost — yes, lost — $2.3 trillion. In 2003, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a subsequent Department of Defense study said it was only $1 trillion. To put such numbers in perspective, contemplate what those sums could finance. $1 trillion, for instance, could pay the total cost of universal healthcare for the long haul. $2.3 trillion would cover universal healthcare plus the bank bailout plus the stimulus package."

And a quote by former Defense Department Secretary Donald Rumsfield: “We maintain 20 to 25 percent more base infrastructure than we need to support our forces, at an annual waste to taxpayers of some $3 billion to $4 billion …”

So before we blame welfare recipients for all of the nation’s budget problems, could we at least try to put this in some perspective?
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