The U.S. deficit: time to reduce spending

By Tom Putnam | Dec 27, 2010

Like it or not, the United States’ deficit is projected to grow to $14 trillion by 2015. This would have been very difficult to achieve if China had not begun its great ascendancy during the last decade of the 20th Century, and loaned us sums that have enabled us to continue our profligate spending.

This becomes scary when China catches up with the U.S. and becomes as large, if not larger, a world power. We then become more indebted to that country and at their mercy. There is no way quicker to hasten the decline of a nation than to call in its debt.

By far, the largest two causes for our continued spending of money that we do not have are the entitlement programs -- Social Security and Medicare -- and our military budget. President Eisenhower, during his farewell address at the end of his presidency, cautioned us about the potential growth of spending for the benefit of our ever- expanding military. Since Sept. 11, 2001, we have ignored Eisenhower’s warning; but even before that infamous date, there were many other signs of increasing military expansion and costs. No, this was not the military acting alone. Much was engendered by our federal government for reasons perceived to benefit our country.

Parenthetically, the federal government is not alone. Many U.S. citizens today have spent way beyond their means and accumulated debt. This has been enabled by credit cards on which one only has to pay interest on the accumulating debt, and by subprime home mortgages encouraged by the federal government. Yes, the reasons behind the latter were to help Americans reach the dream of owning their own homes. Had they rented until they had sufficient funds for an appropriate mortgage, they would not have such unmanageable debts in today’s economy.

Back to the United States military and the federal government: during the Cold War, there was continuing fear of atomic conflict between the two great powers and their immediate neighborhoods, Russia and the U.S. The U.S. was also concerned about the spreading political influence of the Soviets, especially in the Western Hemisphere and right next door: Cuba. Everyone remembers JFK and his courage to face-down the Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis!

There was much spending on the part of the military to maintain parity with the Soviet Union: observation devices (earth-bound and satellite), long range missiles and defenses against them, and numerous overseas bases to protect our allies.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, we have spent enormous sums to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It looks as if the Iraq war is gradually winding down and the U.S. has pulled its offensive troops out. Afghanistan, on the other hand, continues to be an ongoing war with no apparent end in sight. In a previous column, I suggested we leave Afghanistan and depend on undercover agents and drones to prevent the ascendancy of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan again.

Recently, over the radio, I heard of a poll of 1,000 Afghani men who live around Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. Most of them were illiterate. They knew that Americans were fighting in their country, but had never heard of Sept. 11 and believed that the Americans were like all the other invading powers over the past four centuries, and wanting to conquer their country and establish Western rule.

When you think that the cost to the U.S. of the Afghan war is approximately $4 to $5 billion per day and the average Afghan male does not believe it is for his benefit, something is drastically wrong. I feel more strongly than ever that we should leave that country and not try to westernize their culture. Think of the cost savings there.

The military could trim its budget by reducing U.S. military bases overseas. Why do we need bases in Europe? Who are we defending them from: Iraq? Russia? Why can’t they spend their own monies to defend themselves? There is NATO and an attack on any NATO country is an attack on all the countries in the alliance. But do we need bases there to help us fulfill our obligations? What about our base in Okinawa or other places in the far East. The people on the island of Okinawa would like the U.S. to close its military base there.

Yes, let us be ready to come to Japan should they need our help; but let them ask for it. The U.S. does not need to be the guardian of the world. It should support other democratic countries when asked, but does not need to squander needless sums to be ready in case support is requested.

A complete reassessment of America’s mission as guardian of the free world is in order. Let this reassessment be open to all of our population; thereby, the world. Our reduction in the costs of military might well help reduce our debt with China and thereby strengthen our position both at home and also abroad.

As the federal government begins to truly deal with the federal deficit and the problems it engenders, U.S. citizens will also have the opportunity to reduce their deficit spending on credit cards, mortgages and the like. This will have an enormous effect on our country both now and in the decades to come.

We will greet China as a brother and not view that country as a threat. China’s rise does not necessarily mean the decline of the U.S. China’s rise does not exclude India’s rise nor should they be a threat to Japan. Let’s make concerted efforts to reduce our debt to China by the reduction of spending in the name of military preparedness for the benefit of the western world.

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