Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Taming the National Debt

The national debt, and what we can do to lessen it, seems to always be a part of political conversations. But like so many staples of political conversations (healthcare, unemployment, war, etc.), rarely do discussions about it make any sense or have even a tangential connection to facts.

A great example is the graph on the right, put together by Chuck Spinney, a Pentagon budget analyst. As you can see, the deficit has grown the most during hard-line right-wing Presidencies, while declining (often quite precipitously) amongst more moderate and left-wing leadership. This of course flies in the fact of the conventional wisdom that right-wingers are concerned about fiscal solvency and limited spending while left-wingers spend our taxes like drunken sailors. This is not necessarily to laud more moderate/left leaders or say they have some sort of fundamental grasp on how to manage the federal deficit, but just to point out another great example of how what's actually going on is the exact opposite of what is widely believed to be true.

And it's not too hard to figure out the culprit, either -- military spending. Even though we outspend the rest of the world combined on our military, it's become a sacred cow that can never be trimmed. So even though we're discussing raising the retirement age and slashing social security to make ends meet, you can't even raise the idea that we don't need to outspend the rest of the world combined on our military without looking like a lunatic.

But hey, at least that spending is paying off, right? It's not like a dozen guys with box cutters could launch the most devastating terror attack on our soil in decades, prompting us to illegally invade two nations who have not attacked us and miring us in a never-ending war against a vague notion which has already outlasted both World Wars combined in terms of duration with no tangible benefits, right? Right?

Good. Budget busting spending justified.

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