What big ideas can help America solve its most pressing problems? In an ongoing project, Yahoo News is soliciting creative, outside-the-box and possibly controversial (but still credible) solutions. Here's one about the economy and jobs.
Interested in submitting your big idea? Learn more.
COMMENTARY | In 1973 the United States got rid of an unpopular military draft after years of protests over a bloody and demoralizing war in Vietnam. At things were happy, with an all-volunteer military ending much public ire about a militaristic police state. Later we realized that federal spending, including defense spending, had grown too big. Much too big. And nobody will be happy with necessary spending cuts. Should we cut grandma's Social Security check? Reduce aid for single mothers? Slash school funding?
Few can argue that the U.S. needs more guns, tanks, fighter jets, or nuclear warheads. Despite having out-spent the Soviet Union in a military-fiscal game of chicken that ended the Cold War by bankrupting the Kremlin, we have spent countless billions to remain decades ahead of our nearest rivals in terms of military technology. It's expensive to be a superpower and we refuse to compromise on our defensive strength. While it is arguable that the U.S. has an obligation to maintain its military might, it is no longer conceivable that we continue to do it through expensive, high-tech means. The amazingly expensive components in modern fighting vehicles and aircraft mean that we spend millions of dollars on relatively few defense sector civilian jobs.
With an all-volunteer military you have much higher percentages of enlistees who consider the military as a career. It's a good deal: The military offers comprehensive benefits for personnel and dependents. This is generous for the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine but is taxing for the taxpayer. A big way to cut down on paying for military dependents is to revert to a draft military predominated by young men. These men would be overwhelmingly single and without dependents, saving billions on childcare, schooling, and health care costs.
Additionally, with so much unemployment among young adults, as reported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a draft could help hundreds of thousands of chronically unemployed or underemployed 18-24-year-olds develop in-demand skills and discipline. A three-year term of service could turn a generation of listless Millenial adultolescents into mature women and men and save Uncle Sam a pretty penny on recruitment, dependent, and post-discharge benefits costs. Draftees would not have to be lured with promises of bonus and education pay like today's volunteer enlistees, reducing overall personnel costs.