The True Cost of Military Spending

If we, the people of the United States want to cut our federal budget, we need to start with military spending. We spend much, much more than any other country. In fact, the U.S. could cut our military budget in half and still spend twice what China spends and four times what Russia spends (1).

We spend too much defending (and sometimes invading) other countries. We need to spend less, bring our troops home, and mind our own business.

We should follow the advice of our country’s first great military leader and first president. In his farewell address in 1796, George Washington encouraged an isolationist policy.  Washington warned that we should not “entangle our peace and prosperity” with those of other nations because such entanglements would endanger our own liberty:  

Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. …

But, if I may even flatter myself that they (these words) may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism... (2)

Another great general-turned-president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, famously warned against the potential abuse of power by the military-industrial complex (a term he coined):

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. (3)

But Eisenhower, who had planned and overseen the Allied liberation of Europe in WWII, also warned against the cost of military spending:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. (4)

As Washington and Eisenhower foresaw, the U.S. cannot afford to be the world’s policeman.

Evangelicals Question Conservative Agenda

Finally, Evangelical Christians—sometimes called “values voters”—are coming to realize that much of the conservative Republican agenda is at odds with Christian values.

In the Christian Science Monitor, Anna Clark writes:

A recent Pew study found that 57 percent of Evangelicals feel “Government should do more to help needy Americans, even if it means going deeper into debt.”

Rising sea levels and rising frustration with the GOP’s failure to protect the environment also mean that the evangelical vote is no longer necessarily a sure thing for Republicans. According to Pew, the majority of Evangelicals now believe that “stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost.” (1)

Evangelical groups are also weighing in on the immigration issue. The Christian Science Monitor reports:

Although most Americans associate theologically conservative Christians with cultural issues such as abortion and gay marriage, the evangelical political agenda is broadening. Immigration reform is one issue that has steadily gained momentum.

What might account for this change?

For one, pastors and religious leaders are talking more about the issue as a religious concern. Many scriptural passages relate to immigration – including the famous 40-year wilderness journey of the children of Israel to the Promised Land. But most evangelical churches and organizations have only recently begun to underscore the biblical connection to immigration. (2)

During the civil rights movement, Christians were a force for positive political and social change. But in recent years, instead of following Christ’s example and caring for the sick, the oppressed, and the poor, some misguided Christian groups have focused more on opposing abortion, birth control, or gay rights. This creates the perception that Christians want to control people, not help them, and it turns people away from the church.

It’s time for us Christians to stop fighting culture wars and start loving our neighbors.

Today’s GOP Makes Nixon Look Good

Today’s Congressional Republicans are successful politicians but terrible leaders. Through gerrymandered districts and well-funded campaigns, they maintain power despite holding radical views that appeal to only a minority of Americans.

The Republican party has moved so far to the right that the great Republicans of the past—Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, George Bush, Sr., and even Ronald Reagan—would be considered too moderate to satisfy the Tea Party faction who want to dismantle the government.

It wasn’t always like this. Republicans used to be for economic growth and a social safety net that helped people who truly needed it but did not encourage sloth or perpetuate dependence. Republicans used to be for government investment in science and infrastructure, for civil rights, and for protecting the environment.

Who was the last progressive Republican president? Richard Nixon. He created the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Cancer Institute, expanded Social Security and Medicare, and proposed universal health care. He was neither a liberal nor a conservative, but a pragmatist (1). He ran a crooked campaign, but as president he really tried to do what was best for the country.

The current GOP has all of Nixon’s sleazy politics, but none of his pragmatic statesmanship.