WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

Bloated defense budget is welfare for warfare

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President Donald Trump signed yet another massive government spending bill - $1.3 trillion - on Friday, after threatening a veto.

Why did he threaten a veto?

Because the bill doesn't fund his cherished U.S.-Mexico border wall idea, and because it doesn't address the  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that he's threatened to end absent a "fix."

Why did he sign it?

For the military spending. Because, he says, "for the last eight years, deep defense cuts have undermined our national security," and we just can't have that.

Deep cuts? In what universe?

In every year since 2010, the U.S. has spent more than half again as much on its military as in 2003 - two years into the Afghanistan war and the year that it invaded Iraq.

Since 2010, the United States has never spent as little on the military as it did in 2007, the year before Trump's predecessor was elected.

The Department of Defense's 2017 base budget was a whopping seven tenths of a percent lower than the 2010 budget, which was smaller than the 2011 and 2012 budgets. Total U.S. military spending in 2017 was only 4 percent less than in 2010.

Not only is Trump wrong about what actually happened, he's wrong about what the effect would have been if things had happened that way. There's nothing wrong with the security of the United States that "deep cuts" in military spending wouldn't make better.

The U.S. armed forces are far too big, far too powerful and far too expensive to bear any plausible relation to defense. The primary purpose of U.S. military spending is not to defend the United States, but to continuously transfer as much wealth as possible from the pockets of working taxpayers to the bank accounts of large "defense" contractors.

It's a giant welfare program. And nearly three decades of continuous war, starting with Desert Storm in 1991 and escalating after Sept. 11, are the excuse for keeping the welfare checks flowing.

If Trump was serious about national security, he'd veto any budget that didn't include those nonexistent "deep cuts" he's complaining about. A 75 percent cut over 10 years would still leave the U.S. the largest military spender on the planet, but likely much less inclined to disastrously intervene in other people's arguments.

But we already knew Trump wasn't serious about national security, didn't we? His tariffs on steel and aluminum prove that. They, too, are welfare programs designed to benefit corporate welfare queens at the expense of American workers and consumers. And they flout the well-known law of history laid down by Otto T. Mallery:

"If soldiers are not to cross international boundaries, goods must do so. Unless the Shackles can be dropped from trade, bombs will be dropped from the sky."

"America First!" Trump cries, while putting Americans last - and in ever-increasing danger.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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