Thursday, January 20, 2011


Political Mayhem Thursday: A radical suggestion to save $243,000,000,000 a year

What if we got rid of the army?

A friend of mine once raised this possibility. He was not suggesting that we get rid of our military and leave our borders undefended. Rather, he was proposing that we keep the Navy, keep the Air Force, keep every operational nuclear warhead, keep the Marines... but just get rid of the standing army.

Including war costs and expenses not included in the defense budget, our military costs for 2011 will be a little over $1 trillion. The United States accounts for 40% of the entire world's military budget, and our military spending is six times that of China.

The costs of the U.S. Army in 2010 were about $243 billion. The purpose of the Army, in short, is to occupy foreign lands and to beat back those who might invade the homeland. If we gave up a standing army, we would, of course, forgo the ability to invade foreign nations. Is that too great a cost?

Well, sure... but then what are you going to do with the suddenly unemployed Army service men and women, their families, everyone who works on a base or in a large community surrounding a base providing services for that base? You can't just roll them in to the Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard... that just renames your problem.

We could scale back our worldwide military presence; in the era of supersonic jets and aircraft carriers I am less and less convinced we need those bases... but the same problem still remains: you're dumping a bunch of people off of their jobs and in to a market that cannot support as many people as we currently have.
Lane, I don't think many people share your view of government as a giant make-work scheme.
Anon 8:03
I have to agree in part with Lane. I don't disagree with downsizing the Army once things are more stable. But the unemployment levels in the country need to be at a more reasonable level before military personnel downsizing occurs.

As you said, part of the Army's job is to protect the United States from potential invaders. If we disband the Army, that's gonna be really tough to do. Any invading power would have to be able to hold the ground - air power and naval power alone won't do it. The United States, in turn, would need a ground force capable of resisting that invading ground force.

The Marines are excellent at taking territory, but they don't have the manpower to hold it indefinitely. The Marine Corps is much smaller than the Army (that's why it's a Marine Corps instead of a Marine Army). You can't place that entire mission on the Marine Corps and expect a great deal of success. Same for the Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard - if you ask them to pick up the Army's mission with the people and equipment they already have, you'll stretch them beyond their effective capabilities.

I also believe that a strong military is its own form of national defense. If a nation has a strong enough military, that alone can deter unfriendly nations from taking military action against us. Take away the Army and you take away a large part of that deterrent.

This isn't to say that there aren't areas of the defense budget (or even the Army's budget) that shouldn't be cut - I can think of several things I'd eliminate right off the bat but for obvious reasons prefer not to list those publicly - but eliminating the Army entirely is a poor idea.
If we did, then what the hell would little boys play after school? "Hey Bobby, ya wanna play Coast Guard?"
9:00 - Humorous. I get it. But don't knock the Coast Guard. They have a tough job as well. Seriously. Show me another agency that has the missions of national defense, drug interdiction, immigration enforcement, and search-and-rescue all at the same time. They have my respect for the search-and-rescue alone. Fly a helicopter or pilot a boat into hurricane-force winds and waters sometime and then you can make all the fun you want.
Campbell-- Excellent points. I offered this up not because I think we should do it, but because sometimes radical proposals lead you to good incremental ones.

Lane has a point as well-- in this economy, the army plays an important role re employment.
Where did I say government was a make-work scheme? The Army does employ lots of people, and the money they pay them does support some communities, such as Killeen here in Texas. Take that away, and you add strain to an already stressed economy.

I do share the view that government should not take drastic budgetary measures with only the nebulous goal of "reducing spending" without considering how that also affects the rest of the economy.
Lane, this is where that bigger slice of pie comes into play and the tax breaks for the rich get poured back in to jump start the economy and employ all those Army afferent communities. Or not...if China came up with an offer for a better profit margin.
Oh, ok. Next time just say "magic."
The progressive hippies are arguing to keep the Army big and strong (to avoid losing jobs). The conservatives are arguing to reduce the size of the army (to cut spending). Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, cats and dogs, living together... mass hysteria!

All I'm saying is this, when the Ruskies invade, or the Chinese, and they try to raise their red flag on American soil, if we don't have a gigantic, antiquated, slow moving, bloated army then we will have to rely on a few scrappy kids from the mountains of Colorado to save us. And this time, they will have to do it without Patrick Swayze. Wolverines!
Don't get me wrong, RRL... scaling back the defense budget is still something I support, but it should be scaled back in a way that doesn't throw several million more unemployed on a market struggling to employ people right now. For instance, we could stop fighting two costly foreign wars and bring our troops home, and stop paying mercenaries to fight for us. That would help.

Also, if you haven't noticed, the leader of Red China is meeting with US government and business interests as we type. The Reds are here, but they're not Red anymore, so it's OK, because China is the good kind of communism, the one with free markets and totalitarian domestic policies that America finds unobjectioanble, unlike those shiftless Cubans who we still can't trade with because one time they made JFK mad.

Russia is too busy trying not to starve by canceling all grain exports to mount a successful invasion of Colorado, unless all the mail-order brides being purchased by lonely Internet shut-ins are really sleeper agents.

The Ghost of Swayze can rest easy this year.
Ruskies… Really? Does anyone seriously think they still have the power to invade us when the best example of their threat level is how long it's been the struggle with the Chechen issue?
Small geographical note: Chechnya is about 100 km across, so if one puts that in the “Rusky” context they may want to laugh and maybe have a sigh of relief for the scrappy kids in the mountains of Colorado. As for the Chinese invaders, well, that’s a whole different deficit story.
I agree with Lane that the Cuban embargo should be lifted. The goal was to drive Castro from power. It hasn't worked in 50 we really think it ever will?

Cubans for everyone. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.
Marta - if you want to lay down your guns and allow those commies to lull you into a false sense of security than be my guest. But I for one will never forget the cold war.

"because China is the good kind of communism, the one with free markets and totalitarian domestic policies that America finds unobjectioanble"

Lane, we have always disagreed in an amicable, respectful, and only slightly mocking way. But if you ever insinuate there are "good" communists again, then I will be in South Padre before you know it pinko.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em indeed!
I'm a good commie!

No, but seriously, China isn't a communist state anymore. They're a totalitarian state, sure. They have lots of socialist programs, naturally. But those markets are free, or at least, in the hands of private owners that are way in bed with the Chinese government. It's like fascism lite, without all the ultranationalism and protectionism. We don't embargo Cuba out of habit, but trade with China because the Chinese arent Marxists.
The only good communist is a ....well you get the point!

"It's like fascism lite, without all the ultranationalism and protectionism."
Riiiight cause china has neither of those things.

Osler, you do realize that the figures that show we spend 6x more than china are guesstimates right? I will agree that we spend more still, but only because we're required to pay 1 soilder each week what it probably costs China to pay 1000 for a whole year. Though I don't think we can make those kinds of cuts to keep up!

C thomas Howell is however, very much alive and will reprise his role as a wolverine when the Cubans attack.
The question is, will C Thomas Howell be wearing blackface while he takes on the Cubans...anybody remember "Soul Man"?

Oh, and to add on to DDA's point, trusting figures on spending produced by the Chinese government is like trusting figures on spending produced by the Chinese government. There literally is no other comparison because those are the most unreliable spending figures ever produced!
To literally and dramatically disband the army would be ridiculous but to argue for the status quo seems no less ridiculous at this juncture. The notion of hand to hand combat and marching armies, outside parade grounds, may be a thing of the past. Our enemies have found a much cheaper and more destructive way in which to wage war yet we tend to believe that the numbers are necessary; we must need a million-strong army because that’s what we have. And because that’s what we have our strategies are based on that resource. A resource, blech, they are men and women. People’s mothers and brothers and sisters and fathers who are serving not one or two tours but five, six, and seven tours. What will the financial costs be to society, the legal system, the welfare system, the healthcare system when we have created a million lifelong sufferers? Would it really be so much more of a financial burden to dramatically decrease those numbers versus supporting the damage the system is doing to those in it? No one wants to say that they seriously think it is a good idea to eliminate the army, me included, but we tend to except the flip, paternal response of “that’s too costly to consider” and move on. We live with the hangovers of this thinking in many institutions, in the 80’s and 90’s the war on drugs employed thousands of people and one of the arguments in support of the program was simply that, it employed people. Every year someone does a study that shows that more money will not save schools and every year we campaign, fight, and win more money for schools. What mortifying positions to take in the face of evidence that what we are doing is not working, is causing harm, and there are alternatives. (And maybe China does spend $1 for every $1000 we spend but they have also killed millions of their own people just in the last century so not being comparable to China in this, or anything else, seems fine.)
Commies don’t scare me, never did. But then , I used to be a Communist Scout.
And I hate guns.
And you beheaded Holofernes!
Lane, are you telling attractive women that if they hang around with you they can be "Communist Scouts?" I can't believe there is really such an organization.
I fear my wife would object to my forming the International Attractive Young Women's Workers Scouts.
Whoa there fella, now see how all the anti-big government conservatives all get their knickers in a twist!
How about we cut everything, including defense spending, 25% across the board?
Just get Pickles to run the military. Problem solved.
Yeah, like Pickles knows anything about running a military. She can't even build a nuclear bomb with household materials!!! [scoff]

-Dejected Intern
I endorse cutting spending across the board by 25%. Equally applied to every department and every program. I am totally on board. I'll pit my money where my mouth is. I don't really like tanks anymore than I like social security.

I am however against all the pinko commie sympathizers on this blog. Wolverines!
CTL, I don't need to build anything. I delegate.
Unlike Marta, I got out before I was conscripted into any commie version of the scouts. And I like guns.

I'm also on board with taking a 25% cut on everything. I'd like 100% cuts on a few things, but I'd avoid the arguments if we could all agree on 25% to start. It almost feels liberating, kinda like when we won WWIII against the Russian/Cuban juggernaut that made it all the way to Colorado. Thanks to a few true American heroes who waged a tireless guerilla war and gave up their lives, so that this nation should not perish from the earth.

Their sacrifice allows me to insist that Lane get to work on creating his group so that I can the business by creating a Calendar....every day will be May Day!
Pinko? I'm all red, man.

(Sort of; actually while I understand the ethical argument for communism as a workable form of economic arrangement it's a long way off, but we've seen that there are serious problems with transitional revolutionary states, which would require tempering with more democracy and an abandonment of the principles of Lenin and more of a Trotskyite approach, but yadda yadda yadda no one cares about the factional differences between Marxist theory. I suppose you could call me a "democratic socialist" or even a left-anarchist/communist type.)
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