Whenever Washington pretends to discuss solutions to our forthcoming national fiscal collapse, many on the Left bring up national defense as the first area to cut spending. Of course, while cutting defense spending is an important part of getting our national debt under control, it is actually social spending that takes up most of the federal budget and is the driver of expected future debt. Unfortunately, many Americans have been fooled by Washington’s manipulation on this front, and believe the opposite is true.
Sadly, an astonishing number of Americans fail to know the truth about the federal budget. According to a recent national poll, only 37 percent of likely voters are aware of the truth about defense spending, and a bare majority of likely Romney voters are among those who are aware. Additionally, according to the poll – commissioned by the think tank Just Facts – only 18 percent of likely Obama voters know the truth.
This is not good as we look toward the debate over sequestration, and it’s even more depressing as we look at the long-term debate on the national debt. Those on the Left want to focus on defense cuts and tax hikes, even though taking every dollar from every millionaire would only make up about one-fifth of the fiscal year 2012 deficit. Defense comprises only 22 percent of the budget, including care for veterans, whereas social spending is more than 60 percent and growing. Clearly, the imbalance in the budget is not primarily caused by defense spending.
Unfortunately, it is not those causing today’s and tomorrow’s debt problems who are going to face the consequences of our spending policies. Today’s politicians are going to be retired and/or deceased when the consequences of large social spending, bailouts, a horribly mangled and immoral tax code, and other bad federal policies go from being future problems to being in the here and now. It will be young Americans – the Debt-Paying Generation – who are forced to deal with high unemployment, high taxes, high inflation, and/or diminished (or eliminated) retirements.
So what can be done? First, we as a nation must admit we have a spending problem, not a tax problem, though tax reform is absolutely critical to economic growth and diminishing the deficit. Second, we must immediately cut subsidies, corporate welfare, and other “low-hanging fruit” in the budget, and various welfare programs should be phased out. Third, Social Security and Medicare should be made solvent for the next three generations. Fourth, inefficiencies must be targeted – a minimum of 10 percent of the budget is spent on fraud/waste/abuse/duplication, possibly as much as 20 percent, and it should not be difficult to eliminate tens of billions in this part of the budget. Fifth, we need to start moving back to within the framework of the Constitution, which means the Department of Education and other federal bureaucracies must be eliminated. And sixth, we should reform and diminish defense spending – but only as a part of the larger reformation of the federal budget, not as the main focus of our efforts.
Politicians in Washington have misled the public for years on the causes and consequences of overspending. This ignorance is once again shown in the Just Facts poll, and may very well be the undoing of the great American experiment if things don’t change.