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I understand folks getting upset because of either ~$800m worth of DoD incompetence or ~$800m of intelligence 'black budget' funds diversion.

But folks should not forget that the entire DoD spend in the 2015 federal budget was a mere $620.5b.

Compare that to Social Security + Medicare + Welfare. Those totaled $1,918.5b. That's 3x the entire Defense budget. That's where taxes are going.[1]

At least DoD has to field tanks and submarines and carriers. The other guys? They move money around for a living. Be more worried about the size and propensity for graft there.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_United_States_federal_bud...




That's 1,918 billion spent on supporting families on every street, literally saving tens of thousands of lives of every day folk every year, ensuring safe retirement for millions, putting money back into the economy, and putting people back on their feet versus a "mere" 620 billion spent on a needlessly large program which kills civilians around the world and becomes a tool to be used in geopolitical engagments that arguably make our citizens more unsafe. That mere 620 billion is more than the next 7 largest millitaries spend combined.

I'm not saying these programs are perfect (single payer and basic income would probably save lives and money), or that there is no need for millitary spending, but it's scary how out of touch you are to be incapable of realizing why people would be upset with 620 billion going towards killing people and not with 1,918 billion going towards saving and empowering them. Cutting defense spending in half, as unthinkable as that is in the current dominant neoconservative political climate, could free up money for rebuilding infrastructure, doubling the budgets of NSF, NIH, DOE, and NASA, and so on.


These debates about the military budget involve people talking past each other because they disagree on what would happen if we stopped spending that money.

Nobody educated on the subject things we spend $620 billion just in case we need to beat the next 7 armies on the list. We do it because spending more than the next 7 armies on the list ensures that it is pointless for any other state to even try to challenge U.S. hegemony. Nobody knows what the world would look like if the U.S. abdicated its role as world police but a lot of people are willing to spend that money to not have to find out what happens.

And its not unreasonable to be afraid of that hypothetical. The western world spent hundreds of years at war with each other. That period culminated in Europeans killing tens of millions of each others' people. Today, instead of shooting each other in the face as their grandparents did, French and Germans hold hands in the EU. What the hell happened? A very plausible explanation is that when the U.S. became unchallengable after World War II, it became pointless for any European country to cultivate aspirations of global power. That dramatically reduced the geopolitical instability that comes with countries vying for regional or global dominance.


I question the explanation that it primarily was USA's military dominance that kept Europeans from further local military conflicts after WW2. Other factors that can explain why Europeans haven't started wars against each other are: democratization of the region, increased standard of living and the growth of the middle class, war fatigue and strong anti-war sentiment after having lived through WW2, increased trade, the forming of the United Nations, and regionally perhaps more impactfull the European union, and involuntarily being at the centre of the cold war.

Unfortunately I have no references to prove the relative impact of these alternative explanations compared to rayiner's. Still I'd suggest that using the strength of USA's military force as a sole or even primary explanation of post-WW2 peace in Europe is an oversimplification.


> spending more than the next 7 armies on the list ensures that it is pointless for any other state to even try to challenge U.S. hegemony.

Hmm, I think that's exactly what Vladimir Putin is doing right now. I mean he's pretty explicit about it. Xi's being a bit subtler about it, but he's kind of doing the same thing. Also, it seems like the US kind of lost the last couple of wars it got into, the ones in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, even though Daesh and Libya Dawn don't have US$610B/year budgets.

More to the point, though, when the US military spends US$43 million on a gas station that would cost anyone else US$½ million, it becomes plausible that someone could have a stronger military even head-to-head than your US$610B/year military, even if their budget is, say, US$8B/year. Like, say, Singapore or Algeria. All they'd have to do is be spending their money on things that actually work instead of corruption-driven boondoggles. Wasting money doesn't win wars.

Would the US really lose if it got into a war with Algeria or, more realistically, Iran (who's currently supporting Russia's attacks against Daesh, over US protest)? Hard to say. Depends in part on how much of that US$610B is getting squandered, in part on whether Iran has a plan for shooting down GPS†, stuff like that. Aircraft carriers versus supercavitating torpedoes is going to be an interesting experiment when it happens. I'm glad I won't be on the carrier.

(Might also depend on what happens if the US nukes Singapore, which is after all a mostly-not-subterranean city-state. Would it trigger a global thermonuclear war, obliterating the US?)

> A very plausible explanation is that when the U.S. became unchalleng[e]able after World War II, it became pointless for any European country to cultivate aspirations of global power.

I can't tell whether you haven't heard of the Cold War or you don't realize that Moscow is in Europe. Either way, maybe you shouldn't be starting sentences with "nobody educated on the subject thin[k]s".

† Does this sound implausible? It shouldn't. Iran has had Scuds for 30 years, and it's been making its own for more than 20 years. Iran has been able to launch things into orbit since 2008, and if my calculations are right, you only have to go half as fast as orbital velocity to reach a GPS satellite, and then Kessler Syndrome might take care of the rest. And don't forget, launching into orbit means they can get a radioactive dust cloud or ten thousand individually-guided tungsten lawn darts to a point of their choosing within the US within a few minutes of launch.


That depends on what you mean by "lost". Look at the map of US military influence before 2000 and after 2014. Is the US today (a) better positioned to project force, (b) about the same, (c) worse? Not many people would argue (c), and the map strongly suggests (a).

We're not not engaging ISIS because we can't. We certainly could beat them back into hiding. We just don't want to. (I'm glad of that.)


The important metric isn't the ratio of what we spend on the military to what others spend. It's something more like a ratio of the effectivenesses of the militaries, however you'd like to formulate that.

I'd prefer a lower cost, more effective military.


I agree, but why is U.S. subsidizing the whole world without getting as much benefit? Its not just this, U.S. is subsidizing the whole world's healthcare costs too.


The US benefits enormously from military hegemony. It's the de facto arbiter of global capitalism and it controls all of the world's shipping lanes.


Oh the US gets a lot of benefit. Europe buys American stuff and generally does what the US tells it to.


Actually, the main objective of the DoD is preserving a general liberal-democratic post-war order, one which persists only because of a balletic balancing of forces. You may have policy or ideological disagreements with particular episodes or theaters, but to condemn the DoD as "620 billion going towards killing people" is. . . dumb. Or unconsidered, to be more charitable.

And there's evidence that these welfare programs you seem to like are far more inhumane than they are helpful. Remember: it isn't manna from heaven. It's money from income earners. (Not "the rich," remember: it's work that is taxed, not wealth.) And economies have overcome many revolutions, from iron to industrial, without these programs. Do you have a principled reason why the information age is any different?


It's rare to see a more right wing opinion being dictated in a way that is thoughtful or halfway intelligent. Yours is beyond halfway and I'm being serious.. good post.

To answer your question, we need these programs because just 100 years ago some people couldn't read and write. With public education K-12 and public universities, I'm much better off than my own family 100 years ago, before the gov't started these social programs. I'm a product of public education all the way through, and I'm very thankful as it was subsidized by others. I know the program works, and I'm happy to support domestic spending.

I'm in agreement with the parent though that offensive military spending (which standing armies always leads to) is flat out a bad idea and wrong[0]. My great grandfather served in WW1 in the trenches of France, fighting our homeland (Germany). His son-in-law, my grandfather, was shot multiple times over Germany in WW2 by flak as a gunner in a B24 in the Army Air Corp. He flew enough missions that his chance of surviving the war was 10%. The other was a Marine in the Pacific. But we as a family 'serve' no longer. I changed my mind about going to Iraq when one of my grandfathers told me we had 'no business being over there'. And the other said flat out, if the military comes for me, that I'm to go to Canada. I would never disobey those men which I respected so much.

So for me, the principled reason would be just looking at education alone, it makes a better world for all of us. Better quality of life, more opportunities, and an advanced economy.

[0]http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html


> the main objective of the DoD is preserving a general liberal-democratic post-war order, one which persists only because of a balletic balancing of forces.

Objectives are one thing - how much effect they have is a quite different question. Historically there's a long-standing decline in violence; the fall of the Soviet Union, the decline of British dominance, or even the end of the Roman empire are barely a blip on the graph. Is the DoD actually helping, or are they just a rock that keeps tigers away?

> to condemn the DoD as "620 billion going towards killing people" is. . . dumb. Or unconsidered, to be more charitable.

Maybe. If the politicians screw up welfare, the worst that happens is some shysters get some money. The DoD is always going to involve killing people. Hopefully they're a tool that we can use to do more good than harm. But if you don't believe they're being effective - or being used effectively - then all that's left is the killing.

> Remember: it isn't manna from heaven. It's money from income earners.

True, but equally applicable to the DoD

> economies have overcome many revolutions, from iron to industrial, without these programs. Do you have a principled reason why the information age is any different?

Economies survived without these programs, and would do so today. But most people's lives were nasty, brutish, and short. It's worth spending money to improve on that.


The state has filled the power vacuum left by the church and thus taken on the role of social welfare provider.


> And economies have overcome many revolutions, from iron to industrial, without these programs. Do you have a principled reason why the information age is any different?

I truly hope you are a billionaire, because once your Randian utopia comes to fruition, you will need private armies to protect you against their Blackwaters and Pinkertons. Because they'll come for your assets. Count on it.

Don't believe me? Look at Russia. See what happens when oligarchs challenge the supreme oligarch? Their assets get "nationalized", and they are imprisoned. That's best case. The less significant ones catch odd diseases strangely similar to polonium poisoning...


I am sorry, but the leap from "Randian utopia" to Russia is quite hard to follow. Could you explain what do both have in common? Russia is, likely, the most regulated economy in the world (e.g. from the recent news http://www.topnews.ru/news_id_83651.html , the government banned a supermarket chain from selling loose candy, tea, nuts etc. where else something like this could possibly happen?) with giant welfare programs and a big chunk of the population employed in the government. I only read digests of Rand's books but they left an impression that a "Randian utopia" would not have any of these things.


Where are you getting $1.9T? The numbers you cited don't seem to back that up.

Social security was $857B, but is entirely self funded through the payroll tax, Medicare was $519B, and the rest of the social safety net programs were $370B[1].

Also, I would quibble about the defense number. Missing appear to be $151B for veterans affairs (part of the price tag for our wars), and the interest on debt from past wars makes up the bulk of our interest payments of $223B.

[1]http://www.cbpp.org/research/policy-basics-where-do-our-fede...


> Social Security + Medicare + Welfare. Those totaled $1,918.5b. That's 3x the entire Defense budget. That's where taxes are going.

Yeah, those other guys just pay old people's pensions and health insurance (that they're been saving up for), with the occasional helping of folks who would go hungry otherwise.


I'd divert some of that military spending if it means we finally get single payer healthcare.

Basic healthcare can not and must not be for profit. It's crazy that it's not considered important enough to be a basic human right in 2015. Better healthcare for all also means less emergency room visits etc.


I think if you also added everything that individuals, families, and employers are paying for health insurance to the single-payer pool of taxes, the funding picture wouldn't look nearly so difficult. Sure, "taxes" go up, but we should end up with more money in our pockets in the end because we stop paying for insurance and uncovered medical expenses.


I would have thought an increase in FICA by 2-3%, plus raising the FICA ceiling, would have gone a long way towards covering whatever the bill would be. As it is, for my family, we're paying an extra $5k/year for essentially the same high deductible plan we had 3 years ago. Paying that by being forced in to private insurance feels wrong - paying it via FICA (or some other more general tax) feels easier. There's still 10s of millions who have not bought in to private insurance, because the costs are still too high for them (or they opt out for other reasons), so we're still left with millions uninsured but many people paying more. "Health insurance" != "health care service" which has been the biggest problem in the debate for years.


And it's still $600+ bil. I question the need for that much military spending. And in before, the "because jobs" argument. There are plenty of other opportunities to create jobs other than military spending. Fixing our infrastructure for instance.

Also, you aren't accounting for three letter agency spending...


And while I'm on a roll, I wonder why there isn't a bigger fuss made over corporate taxes for large businesses vs. income tax.

I don't get to take advantage of the Double Dutch etc. like a corporation would to pay much lower effective taxes. Sure seems like corporate personhood is has all the upside and none of the downside.


I struggle to understand why you've been downvoted for this. Perhaps HN has finally become the bastion of neo-oligarchs it purports to train?

It's all high and mighty to speak of taxes, but as the esteemed commenter above states, they mostly come from the wage slaves, not the capitaled elite.


Thanks for pointing out the down vote.

The thoughts I expressed above seem logical and clear to me yet I've seen very little discussion around this subject. For some reason, it seems to me that people find it acceptable for corporations to use every means possible to pay less.

I sure would like the option of not paying taxes on overseas income. But yet the US government is intent on taxing all personal income regardless of locale. How is that fair or ok?


The earnings of corporations are eventually taxed.

I don't see why they should be doubly taxed. If I go and perform a job, I will pay income taxes on it. If I go and hire a bunch of people, form a corporation, and perform a job, we will pay both corporate taxes and income taxes.

That doesn't make sense to me and I can understand why companies go to great lengths to avoid it.


The portion that is subject to income taxes (employee salaries) is not subject to corporate taxes. Salaries are a cost for the company and only the profits are subject to corporate income tax.


I misspoke by attributing the double taxation on earnings to "income taxes." You're right that the portion subject to income taxes is a cost, not profit.

I meant the taxation of dividends, which are doubly taxed.


Corporate profits are left overseas and not taxed/taxed at a very low level. You see this with Apple, Google, Medtronic etc.

Taxation of dividends is double taxed if you could once to the corporation and once to the individual.

Avoidance of taxation of dividends (which only a subset of companies do) is not why these corporations go to such lengths to avoid paying taxes. They do it because they don't want their profits taxed. That's my beef.


I think when you put it in perspective like that it's STILL stunning. 800m is a sizable fraction of the DoD budget keeping in mind that the other stuff is maintaining a worldwide military presence on land sea and air and 800m went to a gas station.


Are you saying that 30% of the social welfare budget is trivial?

Or that paying people to build tools of destruction+pollution is better that paying people to do nothing?


Note that there's a lot of money spent beyond the DoD budget. As an example: http://www.pogo.org/our-work/straus-military-reform-project/...


You summed up three budgets and then say that it's 3x bigger than another budget. Really now.


You'd have the elderly eat cat food.


Are you denigrating the good middle-class Americans working honest jobs in our cat food manufacturing plants!?




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