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Don't Hasten America's Decline

4:13 PM, Aug 5, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Max Boot makes the compelling case that "Cutting Defense Spending Could Hasten America’s Decline as a World Power."

I am thoroughly alarmed about the cuts in the defense budget–both those already decided upon ($350 billion-$400 billion during the next ten years) and those that could still come in the fall (another $600 billion–$750 billion unless congressional negotiators can agree on a different menu of spending cuts and revenue enhancers). But not all share my alarm. Some positively welcome the prospect of deep defense cuts. They include, apparently, Fareed Zakaria, one of our most intelligent and provocative foreign policy commentators–and a committed centrist. Because Zakaria is hardly a wild-eyed pacifist, it makes sense to seriously consider his argument for cutting defense which are similar to those being made by other pundits and lawmakers....

True, defense spending is high in absolute terms–but for good cause. We’ve been fighting at least two wars for the past decade. With our commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq declining, defense spending is also going down–next year’s budget, even before the recent cuts, called for $670 billion in spending, down from $701 billion this year. But looking at nominal spending figures only gives a distorting impression. Defense spending as a percentage of GDP is low. The president’s own budget charts show, even if the supplemental spending for ongoing wars is included, all “defense and international” spending consumes just 5.1 percent of GDP compared to 8.1 percent for Social Security and Medicare–just two of the government’s many social welfare programs. Other federal payments to individuals take another 7.3 percent of GDP. If you seek the source of our budget woes, look at these entitlement programs–not at defense, which consumes a much lower percentage of GDP than it did during the Cold War (roughly 7 percent) even in periods when we were not involved in shooting wars.

Whole thing here.

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