Despite all the talk of “austerity,” little has been done to stem the tide of the United States’ ever growing debt. The little that has been cut is in area that needs it most: defense.
The Budget Control Act’s sequestration hits defense disproportionately and essentially ignores entitlement spending, the leading driver of U.S. debt. President Obama has warned that he would “veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts.” This stance is irresponsible and unwise for several reasons.
First, in an increasingly dangerous world with a rising China, intransient resistance from Russia, and instability across the Middle-East, it makes no sense for the U.S. to spend less on defense now than it did in the late 1990s, when it saw fewer threats. Any defense budget should be driven by the threats the U.S. faces, which in the current world means making additional investments.
Specifically, after years of war, U.S. forces need recapitalization investments to restore them to full fighting strength and modernization investments to make sure they are armed with the most advanced weaponry on the planet. The current approach puts the U.S. at greater risk by weakening the military exactly when it needs more support.
Second, a true deficit reduction strategy would tackle the main cause of U.S. debt: entitlements. Entitlements currently consume around 10 percent of the U.S. economy; in 1965, they consumed around 2.5 percent. If nothing serious in done soon, by 2045—a mere 33 years from now—entitlements will consume over 18 percent of the U.S. economy. At that point, the federal government will spend every dollar it brings in on entitlements, leaving no room for defense, other discretionary spending, or even interest on the debt.
The U.S. is in desperate need of courage to fix our debt crisis. Our current budgetary trend is dangerous, both internationally and domestically. A courageous plan, on the other hand, would tackle out-of-control entitlement spending and maintain a strong military that keeps America truly safe.
The Heritage Foundation’s plan, Saving the American Dream, accomplishes these bold objectives. The U.S. is the land of the free and home of the brave. Let’s make that clear by making the right budgetary call.