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I just gained a whole lot of respect for Rand Paul

Rand Paul, the newly elected Republican/libertarian/Tea Party candidate from Kentucky just came out and said what no other Republican will dare say — that in order to balance the budget he would be willing to cut military spending.

It is such an obvious thing, really. We currently spend more money on our military than the rest of the world put together. We spend ten times more than any other country. Has this made us any safer? Has it brought peace and stability to the world?

Hardly.

I’m not a pacifist, but our military budget is way beyond out of control and threatens more harm to our country than our enemies could ever do.

The only question is, will any other Republicans figure this out? Or will they shut him up?

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22 Comments

  1. Dan wrote:

    Military spending is the elephant in the room. Let’s hope that Paul’s statement will give similar-minded officials more traction.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 6:34 am | Permalink
  2. patriotsgt wrote:

    I agree, our military is bloated. Much of that has todo with warfighting, part of it left over mentality from the cold war. We cannot hoowever deny our warfighters the equipment and personnel to complete the current missions. Only the President has the authority to chnage those missions and we cannot and should not leave our troops wanting for anything.

    Being biased towards the Army, I’ll pick on another sevice. Our magnificent navy is the largest in the world. It is the main way in which we project power worldwide. It is also larger then the next 17 largest navies, combined. I’m pretty sure the days of needing 5000 ships for an amphibious assault are past us.
    Don’t get me wrong the Navy and Airforce both provide support to the ground wars and they have some very specialized skills. Our Navy provides training and assistance in the electronic warfare arena supplying and maintaining the systems the Army uses to defeat many IED’s. The Airfoece of course are flyingalot of the drones and mainaining that equipment. Both of these services are crucial in our current wars.
    The Army has the finest equipment of any army in the world. It’s constantly updated. We’d always be getting a message from higher about the fielding of some new peice of body armor that would protect troops better. But this creates a huge amount of surplus. Some of it is shipped stateside to be used for training purposes, but nowhere near all. Much of the Army’s eqipment falls into the same category, we are improving so fast that many pieces become obsolete before the end of its lifecycle. Now, to be fair the Army has a huge undertaking in moving, feeding, training, supplying and rotating troops in 2 warzones and many other non-combat oconus locations. But, again only the president can change the mission. (Do we really still need 30k + troops in Korea after 57 years?) Do we really need (don’t know the number) troops in Germany and Japan after 60 years. Do we really need 1000’s of troops in Kosovo and Serbia, Do we really need 1000’s of troops in the desert in Egypt? These are the projections of force we can seriously look at eliminating.

    I say this to subdue the temptation by the politicals to cry that we’d be putting military personnel at risk. The same strategy employed by state and local politicians who always seem to say we have to cut police and firefighters first, if people don’t want them to raise taxes. (why do they never say cut the bureaucracy first?)

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 6:43 am | Permalink
  3. Jeff wrote:

    I agree that the military budget needs to be trimmed significantly, but Rand Paul has some rather scary ideas about how to cut the budget. This is a quote from an interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour: “You need to ask of every program — and we take no program off the table. Can it be downsized? Can it be privatized? Can it be made smaller?”

    Privatized? That alone makes me nervous. To think that our military and defense, education, infrastructure, and entire health care system could be privatized is kind of alarming. I think he has a good idea, but that he should work to reduce the budget by cutting waste before looking to pass costs and responsibilities to private companies.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 8:13 am | Permalink
  4. starluna wrote:

    PatrioSGT – I agree that any changes in military spending should not endanger military personnel. I too am biased, having three branches represented in my family.

    I believe that the best way to reduce spending is to bring the troops home. Let the Europeans, who are also just as targeted by extremists, pick up a greater share of the military tab of keeping the world (and commerce) safe.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink
  5. patriotsgt wrote:

    Jeff – most of our healthcare is currently privatized if I’m not mistaken and the new HCR is to governize more from the privatized sector. Some of the better parts (ie. charter schools) of our public education are privatized so maybe it’s not a bad alternative to look at. I don’t think anyone would seriously consider privatizing our military. I think what Rand was saying is we shouldn’t exclude any possibility when looking at ways to cut or reduce.

    Starluna -thanks for supporting our military! Yes, i agree it would be nice if a few of these other nations would step up. They all like to jump on the “the US is a militaristic real estate grabbing empire”, but they are content with us fighting their battles. Bring the troops home, sensibly.

    How can we get the Chinese to help, although it seems they’re content and don’t see anything wrong with Taliban, Al Quaida or other extremists. oh ,I forgot they’d just kill everybody associated with any dissent. Al Quaida and the Taliban wouldn’t dare mess with China. Maybe the President should ask them for a few pointers while he’s in that neck of the woods.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink
  6. ebdoug wrote:

    Has anyone read Obama’s Wars? He is going to start July of next year bringing them home. I think “peacekeeping forces” Korea, Iraq, etc. keeps our military up to snuff and gives employment and experience to our forces. They aren’t well paid unless they go higher.
    Republican plans are to invade Iran. Bombing the military bases first. Of course, the Senate is not going to OK that as long as it is in Dems hands. And Obama has the final say.
    Reading the book, I gained more respect for Obama and his decision making than I did before.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 9:35 am | Permalink
  7. Patricia Andrews wrote:

    I noticed that Lindsey Graham is making noises about invading Iran!

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 10:09 am | Permalink
  8. jonah wrote:

    PGT, Please provide a link to substantiate this statement

    “most of our healthcare is currently privatized if I’m not mistaken and the new HCR is to governize more from the privatized sector. ”

    Thank you.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 10:10 am | Permalink
  9. patriotsgt wrote:

    No link needed Jonah – it is unequivically true that most insurance is private, and I only know of 2 hospital systems that are currently gov’t run (NIH)and (VA). It’s also true that medicare(fed) and medicaid(state) is at least 50% gov’t run. Is it not the goal of the writers of the HCR bill to add single payer at some point and does it (HCR) not the govt now responsible for enforcing people to obtain healthcare and police the healthcare industry and establish and mandate certain types of care. I think there are links everywhere and anywhere to substantiate these things. If not, then go to a .gov site or query and download HR 3590 it will spell out the govt’s new roles in healthcare.

    I’m not saying we are currently completely privatized now, nor am I saying we will become completely governmentized under HCR (unless single payer is added and private insurance is abolished, then we’d be closer to that situation).

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 10:44 am | Permalink
  10. Iron Knee wrote:

    I want to be clear that I’m not anti-military and agree with most of what PatriotSgt says in comment #2, but enough is enough! Do we really need to spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined? When our economy collapses from so much spending, I’m sure we won’t mind since we will have all that wonderful military power.

    But I do think we have already privatized much of our military, with companies like Halliburton and Blackwater making fortunes off the current wars.

    On the other hand, PatriotSgt, even single payer is NOT government health care. Regulating the health care system does not make it government run and more than auto safety laws make Toyota government run. I’ve lived in England (which does have government-run health care), Canada (which has single payer but private health care), and New Zealand (base-level single payer, plus you can get private health insurance, but health care is private). Of the three, I prefer the New Zealand model.

    Conflating health insurance with health care is not only wrong, but it is making it difficult to have a rational conversation in this country about what would be the best health care system. Don’t do it!

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 11:05 am | Permalink
  11. Jonah wrote:

    LOL PGT, you make a claim and you expect others to verify it.Your previous statement insinuates that government will take over area’s currently governed by the private sector and nothing in your last post supports that claim. So please clarify what is being taken away from the private sector? Were private companies enforcing that everyone had health insurance before? Also the notion of a single payer should be put to rest once and for all. A democrat controlled senate and house was not willing to approve it so unless michael moore is elected president anyone with an ounce of common sense should know by now that a single payer system will never happen.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink
  12. patriotsgt wrote:

    I got ya Jonah and IK. I don’t want to venture too far from the intent of the original post as healthcare is a whole other subject, but to be clear on my position. I like many of the provisions of HCR, like not getting dropped when you get sick, allowing kids with pre-existing conditions, and the other popular sections. They’re good and way over due. What I think is unconstitutional is the gov’t telling private citizens they must buy a private product. If they said you must buy a car every 3 years we’d all go crazy, right? If Obama had called it a tax, like DOJ wants to claim it as now, then many would not have voted for it. Is the penalty for not buying Ins a tax or a penalty. If it’s a tax then why are only some paying it? My other objection to HCR is its funding. We are cutting 1/2 trill from medicare, plus education, food for the poor, housing for the poor? Come on, who really thinks that will happen?

    I like the New Zealand model IK described . I also understand separating insurance from health care and I admit sometimes I blend the 2, but they are blended together in the HCR legislation. That is where many (including me sometimes) can get confused, but it was written in a confusing way. Jonah, have you tried to read the bill? I did and perhaps thats why I am more confused then if I had just listened to various sound bites.
    Again, I’ll point you to the bill, you can read it for yourself and then we’ll have a conversation on how the gov’t will take over some of the decision making within the health care industry. Let me know when your done with that – see ya in about 2 months, he, he :)

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  13. Don wrote:

    I always like PatriotSGT’s perspective on things, especially things military. I’m not anti-military personnel – I’m a strong supporter of our troups, the people that put themselves in harm’s way.

    That being said, I am with Dwight David Eisenhower extremely negative when it comes to the military-industrial mindset of those who would continue to have us be the world’s policeman, always prepared to go to war in what is mistakenly called our national interest, always having to be the biggest (read “bloatedest” not that there is such a word), most advanced (meaning we’re in an arms race with ourselves), and baddest (meaning we can kick anyone’s ass and then languish on their turf wondering what to do for 10 years) military. Yup, I’m a strong supporter of our people who we put in harm’s way, but very much against those that do that.

    I’m glad Rand Paul thinks the military is too big. It is probably the home of most of our national waste, fraud, and abuse of our tax dollars (other than possibly Medicare) if for no other reason than it is a majority of our “discretionary” spending and I know the newly elected Congress is going to actively root out all the waste fraud and abuse in to balance the budget. Good on ‘im.

    The military budget is not the 800 pound gorilla in the room, though. It’s probably the 300 pound gorilla. Entitlement programs (Medicare and Social Security) are, especially if one takes a look out 25 years or so into the future. We could eliminate our entire military budget and still be running a $700 billion budget deficit this year (that’s a guess, but I’m close enough for this discussion). If we as a country don’t come to grips with these programs and how they are funded and dispersed, we’re headed down the financial drain and I think our national leaders are far too timorous and focused on winning as opposed to leading the country.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Permalink
  14. Michael wrote:

    “Some of the better parts (ie. charter schools) of our public education are privatized so maybe it’s not a bad alternative to look at.”

    I’ve jumped on this claim before. Privatized education is simply not scalable. Private schools have significant costs (e.g., applications and processing) that public schools don’t. Also, private schools perform better (in general) because they can attract the top talent with higher salaries and better working conditions. Finally, parents doling out cash for private school are more likely to make a significant investment in their children’s success. However, these parents are generally more affluent and aren’t working three jobs just to get by.

    “I don’t think anyone would seriously consider privatizing our military.”

    It depends what you mean by privatizing. Many parts of our military are privatized. Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen Hamilton, Blackwater/Xe, Northrop Grumman…those are just a few names that come to mind.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Permalink
  15. patriotsgt wrote:

    Don – if I could write half as well as you , Jonah and IK might stop beating me up every day. LOL

    Concerning your last paragraph here are links for a middle of the road commentator in my local area, who will criticize republicans, democrats, liberals and right wingers alike and who would call himself a conservative.

    His commentary on our debt is something to consider.
    http://www.wbal.com/absolutenm/templates/smith_show.aspx?articleid=61513&zoneid=19

    Or this one concering his fiscal outlook in the days leading up to the election titled:
    Republicans don’t have the answers either
    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-smith-20101028,0,2061707,print.column

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Permalink
  16. Michael wrote:

    “The military budget is not the 800 pound gorilla in the room, though. [...] Entitlement programs (Medicare and Social Security) are[...] If we as a country don’t come to grips with these programs and how they are funded[...]”

    No, no, no, no, no. It is really important to understand that Medicare and Social Security do not contribute to the budget deficit in the way that many people think they do. These programs are funded exclusively through the FICA tax, which is completely independent of the general federal budget. The revenues from this tax go into a trust fund that pays out benefits. Currently, Social Security is running a $77 billion SURPLUS toward the fund. Yes, long-term projections show that the current rates will not last.

    Basically, the 75-year shortfall can be addressed by boosting FICA revenues by 1% of GDP (about $1000 per person on average). This does not necessarily mean a $1000 tax increase. Rather, it could be distributed much more progressively. Current FICA taxes only apply to the first $106,800 of gross wages. Applying FICA to other forms of income (e.g., interest, dividends, raising the wage cap) would go very far to address the shortcoming. This would result in very small tax increases for the majority of Americans, or very small benefit reductions. Yes, there are long-term funding problems with FICA, but very slight fixes (the sooner the better) will address the problem.

    (Note one very important fact: Republicans claim to be fiscal conservatives, but the fact that they passed Medicare Part D belies this claim. Medicare Part D is projected to cost $1 trillion over 10 years. That’s more than “Obamacare,” projected at $900 billion over 10 years. Also, there’s a crucial difference: “Obamacare” is budget neutral, meaning it has absolutely no impact on the deficit. It is paid for by spending cuts in other areas and tax increases. Medicare Part D was completely unfunded. So it simply added to Medicare’s solvency problems without helping. In short, “fiscally conservative” Republicans passed a completely irresponsible piece of crap legislation that caused a major part of Medicare’s budget problems. Source: that oh-so-liberal Forbes magazine http://www.forbes.com/2009/11/19/republican-budget-hypocrisy-health-care-opinions-columnists-bruce-bartlett.html)

    But there is one very important point here: FICA programs, BY LAW, cannot borrow money. If they run out, the programs are no more. So when you hear that a certain percentage of the federal budget goes toward paying interest on the federal debt, this has absolutely nothing to do with Social Security or Medicare. If you completely eliminated FICA, Social Security and Medicare, we would still have the exact same debt problems.

    Military spending does not have the same constraints. When Bush II decided to go into Iraq and Afghanistan, trillions of dollars were immediately added to the federal budget. Instead of raising taxes to pay for these wars, he cut taxes. Consequently, the federal government had to borrow money. This is the problem that economists are worried about. Military spending comes from the discretionary budget, and that is where the real problems lie. The real problem is the federal debt, which keeps rising. We do actually have a legal debt ceiling, but every time we approach it, Congress votes to raise it.

    So, yes, military spending is one of the 800 pound gorilla in the room. The other is that federal income tax rates are too low. Reaganomics (i.e., cutting taxes always helps the economy) is even being denounced as a failure by Bruce Bartlett…one of its original proponents. A top income tax bracket of 37% is simply inadequate to cover all federal spending.

    I’m all for fiscal responsibility. Long-term, we do need to bring our federal balance sheets into order. But we need economics and hard figures, not vague rhetoric about “fraud, waste, and abuse.”

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink
  17. Iron Knee wrote:

    Thanks, Michael! I agree with you completely.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink
  18. patriotsgt wrote:

    Michael- you make some very astute observations. Your post (#14) posted as I was writing (#15). What I hoped to say was Charter schools not private. Charter schools are overseen by the public school system, but run by private companies. Problem is there are only a handful and I the public system decides who is lucky enough to attend. I believe in this sense it works differently then private schools who are selective on who can attend, not to mention the cost. Charter schools cost the student nothing and are funded out of public education dollars.

    On the privatization of the military, I realize there are many civilians support the DOD including the whole megalist of contractors. So I guess we are talking warfighters vs life/techequip support contractors. I don’t think we’ll start hiring mercenaries to fight, although i’ve been called that by some anti-war folks before. Private security firms like blackwater are just that private security like our movie stars hire.

    On SS and fixing it – I can remember 20 years ago people saying it needed to be fixed. No politician will do whats needed. Perhaps though if we had term limits they just might if they don’t have to worry about re-election (like Christie in NJ). I don’t buy the deficit neutral standing of HCR. I’ve seen the funding plan, but as I stated earlier, they won’t rob peter to pay paul, they’ll just refund all those programs making HCR an unfunded trillion $ beast. Or medicare will become a half funded 1/2 trillion $ beast and then they’ll add some “must have” energency funding for education and the food and housing for the poor, because we can’t put them on the street and we can’t deny our seniors medical care. So it will get defecit spending eventually anyway.
    I don’t sound too pessimistic do I?

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink
  19. ebdoug wrote:

    I think Israel is the elephant in the middle of the room. Notice through the election and now, Obama hardly mentions Israel. Surrounded by Muslim countries, Israel has laid a guilt on the US that we must protect them. Probably back to not admitting the Jewish during world war II. So we need to keep a military presence in the Middle East. Iran is poised to Nuke Israel. We have a huge milatary to be ready to protect Israel.

    Medicare D was designed to 1) get votes of the elderly, 2) enrich the stock holders )usually the rich) who have investments in the drug companies. Sickening but I’ll take advantage of it.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Permalink
  20. Don wrote:

    Michael, I left the wrong impression with my comment on waste fraud and abuse. I meant it to be a sarcastic remark, but, in re-reading it, I think I failed. I don’t believe that we can resolve any significant portion of the annual deficit by the payback from reducing wf&r. My fault for not being clear. Candidates that run on wf&r platforms are not living in the same universe as I am. At the same time, I’m all for actively seeking and resolving fiscal abuses.

    For the most part I agree with everything you say concerning SS and Medicare. I can’t find where I alluded to SS and Medicare as contributing to the national debt. At least in the case of SS, when the trust fund runs out of assets om the 2040s, benefits will be reduced to to stay within income. A very bad thing for anyone then counting on SS for a large part of their income. A small fix now would put that date well off into the future, but I don’t see Congress doing anything in the current political atmosphere. (I can see Congress reducing benefits which will seriously tick me off.)

    Medicare, on the other hand, already relies on a significant amount of general revenue dollars to cover some of its costs and, in doing so, does contribute to the national debt (I believe I’m correct in this).

    Overall, I was attempting to draw attention to the immediate need to take action to insure that these programs maintain their viability. Perhaps this was the wrong thread to do so. So, I still think the military budget is a 300 pound gorilla compared to the entitlement programs in our country. I think both need serious attention.

    Monday, November 8, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Permalink
  21. starluna wrote:

    Just to clarify some terms, privatization has a very specific meaning. Privatization refers to the wholesale transfer of the management, operations, and funding of public services to the private sector. Under a privatized system of services, the providers generally set their own standards of quality and are subject only to basic regulations.

    Charter schools are not an example of privatization because charter schools still operate under and are funded by public dollars. Charter schools are probably better categorized as “contracted out” services. Most charter schools receive the bulk of their funding from the same tax dollars that pay for regular public schools and they get some of the benefits of being public part of the public school system (as in better interest rates on loans when they need to build an actual building). But they are allowed to be managed and operated under private auspices without the some of the rules that govern public schools (most especially without having to deal with union rules). However, they are held to the same standards of academic achievement as public schools. Charter schools are subject to be closed down if they don’t meet those standards. Public schools are generally only subject to reorganization if they fail to meet quality standards.

    There is very little actual privatization of public services in the US. The use of private military contractors is technically “contracting out” although there seems to be a blurring of the lines between contracting and privatizing because of the minimal standards and oversight that would usually accompany contracted services.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 8:26 am | Permalink
  22. BTN wrote:

    Michael,

    I’m completely with you on Medicare Part D. The idea SHOULD have to been to reduce the cost of healthcare PERIOD, not reduce the cost to the users by subsidizing private drug companies at the expense of taxpayers.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Permalink