The Federal Military Budget Needs to be Reduced
By Matthew Kwong
The United States has doubled its military expenditure since 2000. At first, this massive increase in spending may seem justified to promote national security and the safety of American citizens, paralleled by the growing federal economy. However, the United States remains trillions of dollars in debt, which has accumulated since the military expenses of the American Revolution in the late 18th century. Nonetheless, the urgency of solving such a national economic issue does not seem to be within the realm of the national government’s priority, as vast amounts of expenses continue to increase the military budget, especially since the Cold War in the 20th century. The demise of the Soviet Union also marked the end of the military phenomenon known as the Arms Race, in which the United States “raced” the Soviet Union to increase its military power. Despite the cease of the Cold War in 1991, the United States remains actively funding and building its military while simultaneously accumulating more debt. There is a reason that amongst other world powers, the United States still does not provide a reliable healthcare system to its citizens, has a large population well under poverty lines, and has cities living in unsanitary conditions. Although there are benefits of having the world’s largest and most powerful military, the United States needs to cut its federal funds that are allocated toward the military, as its domestic issues have been severely undermined by the constant pursuit of militaristic pride.
The debt accumulated solely from military funding has increased exponentially in past centuries since the closing of the western frontier in 1898, when the United States began expanding through overseas imperialism. This hunger for international land and influence has been the primary incentive to expand military power, which the Cold War only increased. However, though this pursuit of global power has been “successful” in that the United States is the third-largest nation by land mass and holds the largest military, domestically, the United States is ranked nowhere near the top. In fact, “the massive U.S. arsenal and fighting force deployed worldwide are powerless against grave, nonmilitary threats to national security—from a raging pandemic to the fact that tens of millions of Americans breathe foul air, drink tainted water, and struggle to pay for food, housing and health care” (Negin). The United States has prioritized its federal power but has left its domestic issues behind, the most evident being its healthcare system. Because of the lack of federal financial aid, local hospitals and healthcare providers are more expensive, leading to fewer people being able to afford them. Additionally, the United States has one of the highest tax rates compared to other developed countries, which not only leads to the inability of many Americans to have healthcare access but also lowers the average income rate and increases the number of people living below the poverty line. According to economist Andrew Beattie, “the increased debt will eventually drag on economic growth and drive taxes higher.” The issue is that these taxes are not being directed toward citizens’ direct relief, but rather to the federal military. As citizens of a global power, it’s plausible to infer that one’s federal taxes are being used to solve domestic issues, such as to provide a more affordable health care system. However, it is clear that that is not the case in the United States, as it continues to accumulate more debt by funding the military while simultaneously raising taxes to compensate. This inadequate healthcare caused by a lack of federal financing has proven to be more of an issue over recent years as shown by increasing health issues and death rates. According to a study from Harvard researchers, “lack of health insurance is associated with as many as 44,789 deaths per year, which translates into a 40% increased risk of death among the uninsured.” Another study found that more than 13,000 deaths occur each year just in the 55-64-year-old age group solely due to lack of health insurance coverage (ProCon). As statistically shown, an indirect result of overfunding the military is an increase in American deaths and health issues. As iterated earlier, the United States is “powerless against grave, nonmilitary threats to national security,” which is most evident in the increased death toll of the American public as a result of the simple pursuit in a strong military in regards to quantity.
Similarly to the evident healthcare issue in the United States, the sanitation and poverty rates in American cities also lack development compared to the nation’s military. Since the industrialization of cities, the United States has lacked success in improving city conditions and poverty rates. Though President Lyndon B Johnson’s Great Society plan in 1964 sought to reduce poverty rates and city sanitation, it was ultimately ineffective because of inadequate financial aid due to the Vietnam war at the time, which caused federal funds to be prioritized for the military. However, with no more ongoing wars that the United States is so directly involved in, the majority of federal finances should be dedicated to domestic issues, but this has evidently failed to be implemented. The United States, specifically the Pentagon, has still devoted a significant portion of taxes and other sources of federal funds to overpriced military projects—in just this decade, “the Pentagon was forced to cancel a dozen ill-conceived, ineffective weapons programs that cost taxpayers $46 billion,” which included many military technologies that were not even started, such as a “40 ton crusader artillery gun which never even made it to the prototype stage” (Negin). Not only does the Pentagon spend a large percentage of taxpayers’ money on military projects, these projects sometimes end up incomplete, completely wasting federal funds that could have been used for more important causes. The funding for military projects has taken much federal attention away from domestic issues, especially in cities that include environmental programs like the EPA that are designed to alleviate urban sanitation conditions. According to funding statistics, “these canceled programs collectively cost more than the federal government spent on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the last five years” (Negin). Additionally, the EPA’s budget is being continuously shrunk in exchange for simply a larger military force. In 1980, “the federal EPA spending, adjusted for inflation, was twice its current level, and in 2004 the EPA budget was 45 percent higher than it is today.” This evident lack of funding has severely impaired the agency’s purpose, which is to “ensure indoor plumbing to people in rural areas, protect children from lead in drinking water and advance environmental justice for disadvantaged communities and reduce air pollution” (Coursen). These environmental issues continuously faced by many Americans should not be overshadowed by the federal desire to militarily expand, as these issues are what define American development, not the quantity of our military force. It is evident that the federal government neglects many domestic issues in exchange for building up its military, which ultimately causes the contrast in development between the nation’s domestic and military progression. Because the United States has devoted much of its federal funds to overpriced unnecessary military projects, it cuts back on domestic progress, which is the real threat to American safety, not international national security.
American history has been characterized by its dedication of federal funds to the military. The constant pursuit of defense spending has clearly been a downfall to American progress, evident in the lack of development in America’s domestic issues such as its healthcare and environmental issues yet to be resolved. The United States has prioritized defense funding and achieved the recognition of having the largest military but at the cost of also being the most in debt and having extremely neglected domestic issues. Though the United States is often considered one of the most “developed” countries, it rarely considers the costs which the nation paid to achieve such a global reputation. Americans continuously living in unsanitary conditions and constantly being unable to afford adequate healthcare should not define progress, let alone development. The federal government needs to stop being showered with money taken from Americans through taxes, as the majority of it is not for the direct relief of Americans, but rather for unnecessary defense funding. Although recently, since Obama’s presidency, the money allocated towards the military has been reduced, more needs to be done in order to truly see national development. In the eyes of the nation’s people, this is not justified progress, but rather a return to inequity.