Reading up on the latest budget battle stories (yawn), I had one of those moments that make me pause and think about what I think about government.
The line that made me blink was;
House Republicans passed a bill last year that would replace most of the defense cuts in the sequester with more domestic cuts, such as trimming the food stamp program and cutting federal worker pay.
I had a visceral negative reaction to the idea of not cutting the defense budget, but then I paused. I think defense is one of the indisputably appropriate activities of government, whereas domestic spending like food stamps is not within what I see as government’s core necessary and proper duties. So I had to rethink my stand on the issue.
And ultimately I ended up back in the same place. Food stamps cost $78 billion in 2012. That’s double or more in the last 4 years, but it’s only 7/10s of one percent of the deficit of about $1 trillion. In comparison, the defense budget is over $600 billion. By some accounts, taking a broader view of what counts as defense spending, it’s almost $1 trillion. At any rate, it’s close to half of all military spending in the world.
So I say if we’re going to balance the budget, let’s focus on the military more than programs like food stamps (which will naturally decline in cost anyway, as/if the economy picks up).
That’s not a surprising position, and I don’t proffer it as a bold or insightful claim. What interests me here is how my foundational beliefs about what are more legitimate government activities and what are less legitimate ones do not determine my position in this case.