How Massive Defense Budgets Drive Unconstitutional Domestic Programs
In the United States today, we have bipartisan agreement when it comes to spending money and violating the Constitution.
Republicans love to criticize Democrats for their big spending ways. But they are just as guilty – especially when it comes to the defense budget. The fact of the matter is, the GOP wouldn’t get its bloated military budget without the Democrats, and the Democrats wouldn’t get their welfare state without the Republicans.
The cost to defend the United States of America was the subject hotly debated by the Senate, as it recently considered the law authorizing the budget for the Department of Defense for this fiscal year — the National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA.
In its draft phase right before reaching the Senate floor, the NDAA was a typical bill authorizing dollars. It initially gave appropriations committees a ceiling limiting how much they can spend. All sorts of unnecessary, excessive spending on pet projects was included. In total, the NDAA authorizes about $600 billion dollars.
What is the return on investment Americans get for this whopping price tag? Here are some highlights from the Senate Armed Services Committee lauding the government projects that will be created or extended:
- The NDAA includes a provision that amends the Military Selective Service Act to include women in the requirement to register for selective service.
- $10.5 billion is allocated for the Joint Strike Fighter program. This program has been a failure in fighting wars and containing costs.
- $1.2 billion is allocated for upgrades to M1 Abrams tanks, M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, and Stryker armored combat vehicles. More spending on Abrams tanks was made despite repeated requests from the Department of Defense to stop buying them.
- The NDAA maintains the United States government’s controversial policies in Guantanamo.
- There is $3.4 billion allocated for the Afghan Security forces to “preserve the gains of the last 15 years.”
- $239 million is allocated for U.S.-Israeli cooperative missile defense programs
Take a look for yourself. The summary is an easy 18 pages to read; the NDAA itself soars to more than 1,500 pages.
(It should also be noted that some elected members actually had the gall to state that $600 billion is not enough for defense and that the Department of Defense should create a spending plan themselves and Congress should just rubber-stamp it.)
It is worth noting that both political parties share the blame for this situation. Because, on top of the $600 billion dollars in the bill (known in DC as base budget), Senator McCain filed an amendment requesting an additional $18 billion dollars. This amendment is little more than a cheap budgetary gimmick allowing him to spend more while telling Americans that he is fiscally responsible.
This is where we see one of the many ways that profligate foreign and defense policy corrupts domestic spending and grows the cumulative size of government.
Senator McCain did not have the votes necessary to pass his $18 billion dollar spending amendment without getting some Democrats on board. That means McCain had to convince his Republican colleagues to vote for a Democratic amendment (sponsored by Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island) for another additional $18 billion dollars – on top of McCain’s $18 billion – all increases in domestic spending.
If Republicans vote to increase domestic spending, Democrats will vote to increase military spending. As the saying goes: you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. This is how the welfare-warfare system functions, and why Washington D.C. always grows like a cancer at the expense of us all.
The Reed amendment included all sorts of unconstitutional spending on domestic programs. Here is a brief list:
- $2 billion for cyber security for OMB,
- $1 billion for opioid funding,
- $3.2 billion for infrastructure grants, VA maintenance, FAA maintenance, rail and transit systems, national Parks
- $1.9 billion for water infrastructure
- $3.4 billion for science and tech (NIH and NSF)
- $1.9 billion for Zika prevention
- $202 million for wild land fire suppression
- $900 million for FDA food safety modernization act
Thankfully, the vote on these two amendments ultimately failed, albeit by thin margins. The key point to learn from this example is that the desire to increase military spending necessarily involves increasing domestic spending alongside it. The two cannot be separated.
That is why nullification activists must be sticklers for consistency. We must make the consistent argument for limited government, and thwart the power-grabbing schemes of both major political parties – whether those schemes are enacted in the foreign or domestic realms.