For a month or so now, it seems like all we hear about is the terrible “fiscal cliff.” Many put it as being more fearsome than the Mayan end of the world on December 21. But, contrary to these doomsayers, I think we should go off the fiscal cliff on Jan. 1, 2013.
The reasoning behind this is that going off the cliff really deals with two of the major causes of our huge federal deficit, namely tax cuts by both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and huge increases in military expenditures at the same time. It is this combination that has gotten us into trouble, and the upcoming sequestration deals directly with both items. It includes the tax increases we needed in 2001 and 2003 when we got into two wars post-9/11. If the Republicans had acted responsibly by raising taxes then we would not be in this mess now. Think about that when you think about the credibility of both Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Military spending doubled from the 2000 and 2001 budgets to the budgets of 2006, 2007, and 2008, while in many of these Bush years direct U.S. government revenues decreased, due largely to the tax cuts. At the same time the deficit soared, from a total of $5.7 trillion in 2001 to $10 trillion in 2008, a gain of $4.35 trillion in those years.
The only mention I hear of doing something about the vast increases in military spending is in the sequestration. One thing to consider is if we don’t include Social Security and Medicare 50 percent of the U.S. general budget is for the military and military-related expenses, and that is 47 percent of the world’s total military spending. Instead, our so-called Republican “leaders” want to cut entitlements, which would greatly increase the suffering and even the death rate of those dependent on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. I can’t help wondering what kind of principles these Republicans have.
The U.S. is currently spending $1.3 trillion this year on military activities, $673 billion in the official defense budget for 2012 and many other amounts “hidden” in departments other than the Defense Department. Much of this is due to our empire building throughout the world. We have more than 900 military bases overseas and a huge naval fleet around the world. The cost of this world empire is tremendous — from denying many Americans food, housing, clothing, medical care, etc. to thousands of deaths of innocent people- women, children and other civilians overseas — to the terrorism our activities in nations around the world foment.
Also, when one looks at history it becomes apparent that excessive war has brought many nations and empires to their knees, far more than social spending has. In the second century AD the Roman emperor Hadrian (AD 117-138) stopped further expansion of the Roman Empire because maintaining that empire was just costing too much, and to continue expansion would cost much more. After World War II the British Empire went down because after huge wartime losses England could no longer afford to keep the empire going, particularly with nationalism growing in the former colonies.
This is why I favor going over the so-called “fiscal cliff.” We have many things to consider in this, and this should not be done in a panic-stricken, rushed mode. Taxes will go up Jan. 1, but in January we can consider if we want to keep all of them at that level, maybe in a calmer atmosphere. This also applies to cuts. We should seek to find wasteful, extravagant items in the defense budget that wouldn’t weaken us if cut, items that would save money outside of the entitlements. Let’s not let the Republicans stampede us into foolish decisions that could kill and injure people here.
Let us remember the words of past leaders:
Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a 1953 speech stated, “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…”
And John F. Kennedy, in a speech at the University of Washington, on Nov. 16, 1961, said, “We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient — that we are only six percent of the world’s population — that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind, that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity- and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.”
Also Erskine Bowles, of the recent Simpson-Bowles Debt Commission, echoed Kennedy’s sentiments when he stated, “I think we’ve been disproportionately responsible for world peace and I don’t think America can afford to be the world’s policemen.”
In this debt crisis we should definitely consider these sentiments. And, if we are going to do all this we should raise taxes accordingly, not “borrow and spend” as some have.
Allen Johnson is a resident of Grayland.