Refuting letter writer's military budget analysis

Posted 8/14/19

Ms. Huenke wrote (Leader, Aug. 7) that defense chews up more than half of every tax dollar. This assertion is simply not true, and indicates a distressing lack of basic understanding about the …

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Refuting letter writer's military budget analysis


Ms. Huenke wrote (Leader, Aug. 7) that defense chews up more than half of every tax dollar. This assertion is simply not true, and indicates a distressing lack of basic understanding about the federal budget.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), in FY 2017 defense spending accounted for 17% of federal spending, while entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) used 48% of the budget.

She writes that “The list of illegal wars it (U.S. military) has incited is long….” Again, the statement indicates a fundamental constitutional misunderstanding. The military fights wars that our civilian leaders lawfully authorize. That our current War on Terror may be of dubious legality is a reflection of the shortcomings of Congress, not the military.

As a former Navy officer and fighter-bomber pilot in Gulf I, I was proud to work as part of a coalition to rid Kuwait of the invading Iraqis. I flew with Brits and others, and was refueled with (free) Saudi fuel. Would Ms. Huenke prefer that Kuwaitis were still being raped and pillaged by Saddam’s henchmen?

Mike Loriz
Port Townsend


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Tom Camfield

About the cost of militance: It cuts the hell out of available funding for all manner of aspects of American society.

I'm sure what Ms. Huenke had in mind was the discretionary budget, which is what the president and congress have direct control over. Of that, for 2019 some 52% was allocated for defense. And here's a bit of news from June 2018: "The U.S. Senate on Monday voted to give the military $716 billion for 2019, approving one of the biggest defense budgets in modern American history despite concerns from some economists and lawmakers about the rapidly rising federal deficit. The 2019 military budget, approved by an 85-to-10 vote, gives America's armed forces an $82 billion increase from 2017." See:

The mandatory spending portion of the overall budget is legally committed ro funding such entitlement programs as federal debt interest (also rising dramatically under Trump), Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. This exists outside the national budget appropriations process.

The federal debt is a sneaky thing. Free-wheel spending, a tax cut for the wealthy, etc., can pile up debt, the interest on which becomes mandatory—cutting into tax funds that would have been available to use for discretionary purposes. In dealing with trillions of dollars of debt, that mandatory interest alone decimates available dicretionary spending.

There's a nice little chart on discretionary spending at that shows the 52% for military—and the 48% total for transportation, education, veterans' benefits, housing assistance, health, foreign affairs, law enforcement, natural resources, science, community services and "other."

We sure have to cover a lot of territory just to come close to matching the military budget.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Mike Loriz


If Ms Huenke has something in mind, I hope she is kind enough to write that down rather than have us try to read tea leaves. In any event, I respectfully disagree with you. Congress has constitutional authority over all three categories of federal spending (mandatory, discretionary, and interest). It is just spin to break up the pot to make one type of spending look larger than another.

For example, in 2017, the same amount of money was spent on defense as Medicare, within $1 B. Almost twice as much as that was spent on Social Security. Congress has determined that basic split since LBJ's day. The proportion of money going to defense has not changed much since Reagan's era.

As far as recent budgets go, I agree that there is a bunch of red ink. I think I read that 25 cents of every dollar in the 2019 budget is borrowed. We could zero out the entire defense budget (or Medicare) and there would still be red ink. Nonetheless, the military took a huge hit during sequestration (remember that only discretionary spending was halted?), and the 2018/19 military budgets are an attempt to repair some of that damage. Were your Social Security or Medicare payments stopped then? Nope. The military was just hurt.

Thursday, August 15, 2019
Annette Huenke

You are correct, Tom. I did have in mind the discretionary budget, and I acknowledged my error in the online comment section last week. Mr. Loriz is aware of that, but pretends he is not.

My Aug. 7 letter had little to do with manipulable budget numbers, and lots to do with the immorality and colossal criminality of America’s perpetual economic and military aggression against other nations. []

The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was green-lighted by the US for the express purpose of provoking yet another intervention. []

It’s a pity Mr. Loriz didn’t defend female US soldiers in Iraq, nor the Iraqis in Abu Ghraib, against American rapists. (That’s only the tip of that iceberg.)

In 5 short minutes, here [] one can receive a valuable education on the true ‘cost’ of war. It has little to do with line-item budgets and number-crunching CPA’s.

Friday, August 16, 2019