Donald Trump has now proposed a $54 billion increase in defense spending to be offset by as yet unspecified cuts in discretionary spending (supposedly from Foreign Aid, the EPA, etc. — the usual Republican bete noires. There’s a lot to unpack here even without specifics. National Review gets into the budget specifics, pointing out that Trump is already promising big tax cuts and infrastructure spending. Moreover, Trump is punting on the biggest budget issue: entitlements. On Twitter, my e-migo Kevin Wilson noted:
This doesn't seem like a lot. Side Q: does cutting funding without drastically reducing regs just increase wait times for various decisions? https://t.co/3bHOa1L9zh
— Kevin Wilson (@WilsonKM2) February 27, 2017
This is an important to keep in mind with EPA budget cuts. Without change to regulations (promised by Trump but not yet delivered), all EPA budget cuts will do is drag out paperwork cycles and prevent some laws from being actively enforced (laws that we might want to be enforced, e.g., lead restrictions).
However, our friend Thrill hits a very important point that seems to be being glossed over.
Trump is following Reagan by developing a stronger military, pursuing a nuclear arms race, and other policies. What was different with Reagan is that we knew who we were arming against, what was at stake, and what would be the horrible outcome of a war with them. A strong military had been a core US Cold War policy held by presidents in both parties from when Truman had to convince a reluctant, war weary nation to accept it.
What I can’t figure out is whether anyone believes that our gigantic, sophisticated, and well-trained military just isn’t already good enough compared to what’s out there in the world. Who exactly are we trying to deter?
Exactly. Ronald Reagan didn’t just increase military spending. He increased in specific ways to counter potential Soviet aggression. The arms buildup made a Soviet invasion of central Europe impossible, made their nuclear arsenal unwieldily and put them into a potential race for “Star Wars” that they couldn’t possibly win. Moreover, they had to try to keep up with a much weaker economy. In the end, the arms race bankrupted them. And the weapons systems developed in the 80’s were so effective than when we finally did get a face-off between Soviet and American weapons during the Gulf War, it was no contest. Those weapons are still with us today and still outclass almost everything in the world.
A military spending budget should not just be some amount we send to defense contractors. That’s what’s gotten us into the F-35 debacle. You need to start with a strategic vision and work forward from there. Maybe you find that we’re spending too much. Maybe you find we’re spending too little. Maybe (very likely) you find we’re spending on the wrong things. But you don’t just increase military spending to increase military spending. That’s DemocratThink: hope spending money solves problems, maybe even ones that don’t exist.