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Budget Woes Sign of a Dysfunctional Empire

Budget Woes Sign of a Dysfunctional Empire

The bloated military budget is justified on the assumption that the United States can and should police the entire world, but this approach is fundamentally unsustainable, warns Jonathan Marshall.


President Donald Trump’s latest $4.4 trillion budget proposal calls for boosting military spending by nearly $200 billion over the next two years, and would balloon the national debt by more than $7 trillion over the next decade. Pundits proclaim it “dead on arrival.”

The Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Defense Department, as viewed with the Potomac River and Washington, D.C., in the background. (Defense Department photo)

But the likely alternative, based on the recent congressional budget accord, will be an equally irresponsible combination of sky-high military spending and even more borrowing – signs of a dysfunctional empire unable to manage its decline intelligently.

The U.S. national debt now exceeds $20 trillion, or $170,000 per taxpayer. When the number was smaller two years ago, under President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it “dangerous and unacceptable.” Yet, following last December’s massive corporate and personal tax cut, and the subsequent agreement on new spending targets, Congress now envisions adding $15 trillion to the federal government’s debt over the next decade.

No serious analyst predicts any immediate disaster, but fast-rising levels of public debt, combined with extremely low levels of private savings, could set the United States up for another financial crisis. If interest rates climb, high levels of debt can rapidly drive up federal spending on interest. If another recession strikes, slashing federal revenues, the burden of debt can also soar.

While many domestic programs are slated to grow, a major contributor to the U.S. debt burden will be soaring military spending. The recent budget accord calls for feeding the military about $80 billion more this year, and an additional $16 billion more the next. The increase alone exceeds Russia’s entire military budget ($69 billion in 2016, the most recent year for which comparative data are available).

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