Defense spending: not free, but is it as expensive as you think?
We’ve gotten a lot of questions about government spending since President Obama’s budget came out on February 1st. One re-occurring question is the following: Haven’t spending on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and on homeland security been a major cause of our surging debt?
There is no doubt that national security is expensive – it cost $782 billion in 2009, $2,500 per American. This is 22% of the $3.5 trillion spent by the federal government last year. The rest of the budget is comprised of non-security discretionary spending and entitlement spending (Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security).
Contrary to popular belief, defense spending was not the foremost factor for the national debt increasing $2.5 trillion under President Bush. Only 40 percent of new spending under President Bush was on defense and homeland security – not a trivial number but a smaller percent than most people think.
What may really surprise you (it surprised us) is that Barack Obama is spending more on defense than George W. Bush did, according to a recent article in The Economist.
People will disagree over how the government should spend money. But in our disagreements, let’s make sure we first know how much money is going where. We are facing record deficits for multiple reasons. Defense spending is one of the reasons but not the primary one.
If looking for places to cut spending, you have plenty to choose from.