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Americans Are Missing Crucial Critical Thinking When it Comes To The Federal Budget

The federal budget in 2016 was $3.8 trillion dollars. That’s a lot of money. Roughly two-thirds of that money goes to mandatory spending (Social Security, Medicare, Transportation, Veteran’s Benefits and the like). A little less than a third ($1.1 trillion) goes to discretionary spending. Of that the biggest piece (55%) goes to the military.

*Click below to enlarge (charted by Statista)

2016 military expenditure by country and share of global total. Statista
2016 military expenditure by country and share of global total.

We outspend the Chinese 3:1. We outspend the Russians 9:1. To hear it from our senators and representatives, we’re failing in the military arms race against the rest of the world, yet we’re outspending the next top 8 countries combined. If you include nuclear warheads and national defense we’re closer to $700 billion. This figure ($611 billion) doesn’t cover the war in Afghanistan or Syria. It doesn’t cover Homeland Security; it doesn’t cover Veteran’s Benefits.So one question to be asked is: how come other countries are seemingly so much better than us at military spending? Why is it we are worried about the Chinese whom we outspend 3:1? Why are we quaking when the Russians are spending a paltry $70 billion on their military? One answer is that fear and uncertainty help guarantee large military increases, help maintain these high costs (it’s also a budget within which we have people getting fat selling the government $1200 toilets and $3000 coffee pots. Yes, American companies are ripping off American taxpayers!).

Roughly a quarter of the $611 billion pays salaries. Ok. A third is operations and maintenance (doesn’t cover the war budgets, that’s a different part of the budget); and slightly more than a third is for “major weapons systems”.

So, now, think of this: what would happen if we dropped the military budget to, say, $400 billion. We could still pay salaries. We’d force the military to be a more efficient in operations and maintenance and we get lean and mean over new weapons systems.But think of the benefits! With that $211 billion in hand, free college becomes achievable. We come closer to free health care. Roads get fixed, bridges are repaired, subways work again.

A healthier better-educated population designing, building (and using) modern infrastructure would be a much better answer to more jobs and better salaries.