Making Sense of Federal Spending: Don’t Fall for Slanted Budget Arguments

Making Sense of Federal Spending: Don’t Fall for Slanted Budget Arguments
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Our national debt is a problem. Misinformation as to the cause and effects of that debt is also a problem.

In his July 28 column in The Washington Post, Robert Samuelson writes a compelling piece on this debt narrative, which is becoming increasingly more difficult to control. His point is quite well summarized by the piece’s simple headline: “No, Military Spending Is Not Bankrupting Us.”

Samuel discusses budget arguments made by others who suggest the nation’s defense needs are shorting other federal programs. He also addresses a familiar topic: Often-reported cases of federal waste.

We have waste in government – I have seen my fair share in 30-plus years of military service. However, while there’s no justification for continued waste, there’s no reason to shape evidence of misused money to fit only one side of the argument. As Samuel puts it, “… [T]here is waste in many federal programs – Medicare, student loans and Amtrak, as examples – and they shouldn’t be used as a pretext for stalling needed defense spending.”

Congress and the President have repeatedly tried to control runaway budgets that fuel our nation’s debt – some examples below highlight the intent, followed by the difficulty on holding the line as evidenced by the iterative adjustments made by the House and the Senate, then endorsed by presidents past and present:

  • Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985; House (271-154), Senate (61-31)
  • Budget Control Act of 2011; House (269-161), Senate (74-26)
  • Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013; House (332-94), Senate (64-36)
  • Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015; House (266-167), Senate (64-35)
  • Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018; House (240-186), Senate (71-28)
  • Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019; House (284-149), Senate – TBD as of this writing

Suffice it to say, managing debt is increasingly difficult when the wants and needs clash in the political sphere – where interest groups create the demand while politicians work diligently to provide the supply.

While MOAA advocates for programs that may add to the government’s bottom line, our legislative team does so not out of ignorance of the nation’s financial issues, but out of a need to compel prioritization of funds to pay for benefits servicemembers have earned through hard work and sacrifice that ranges up to the ultimate.

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About the Author

Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret)
Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret)

Merry earned his commission in 1989 through AFROTC and commanded DoD’s Port Mortuary at Dover AFB, Del. He has served in multiple overseas conflicts since the 1990s and has served as the VP of government relations since August 2016.