Where Do Our Tax Dollars Go?
The federal debt has been one of the most divisive issues in Congress, leading to cuts in public welfare, near default on our debts, and a sequester agreement which has hurt almost every segment of our economy. Yet, we have not adequately addressed two of the largest expenses, which could be reduced without sacrificing our security or our safety net programs. The graph below reports the way our country spends its money.
Interest on the public debt is one of our largest expenses and one that could easily be addressed. That could be addressed by restoring a progressive tax rate, by cutting tax loopholes, and by removing subsidies to profitable industries and the wealthy. Congress cannot seem to act on raising taxes as many of the Legislators have signed on to Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes. Senator Tom Coburn, in his Back in Black report , has identified many of the porkbarrel programs that could be cut if Congress had the will to do so.
The second area could be cut is military spending. The graph below shows the military spending by country. The United States spends five times as much as any other country, and as much as the next 10 countries put together on defense. We certainly need to defend our country, however, we still invest a tremendous amount of money in military hardware which is mostly useless against our greatest threat, which is terrorism. Why do we do so? President Dwight Eisenhower warned us in his farewell speech,
“My country wants to be constructive, not destructive. It wants agreement, not wars, among nations. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
The military–industrial complex refers to the policy and monetary relationships which exist between legislators, the armed forces, military contractors, and the military industrial base that supports them. These relationships include political contributions, political approval of military spending, and lobbying to support military bureaucracies and weaken oversight of the industry. We have not followed Ike’s advice, as we have allowed the military-industrial complex, in the name of providing security, to gobble up a large share of our national spending. We need to shift our resources to intelligence and diplomacy to combat terrorism, and away from the much more expensive, and much less necessary, conventional military spending.
It should be possible to eventually reduce our expenses for social programs, but not while we are still recovering from a recession which has greatly increased the need for public assistance. To justify that I will quote Eisenhower again:
“To blend, without coercion, the individual good and the common good is the essence of citizenship in a free country. Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
(c) 2014 J.C. Moore