COMMENTARY | The Associated Press reports Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has unveiled his federal budget proposals, indicating his preferences for government spending should he be elected president. Romney would reduce federal spending to 20 percent of GDP by the end of his first term, bringing it back to pre-recession levels under President George W. Bush. The proposed spending cuts would equal some $500 billion.
Planning to cut civilian spending while boosting military spending mirrors the period of Soviet Union spending before its dissolution. Under President Ronald Reagan, who encouraged a 1980s arms race against the Russians, Soviet military spending drastically increased, eventually bankrupting the superpower. With unemployment still high, the gap between rich and poor growing, and the American workforce aging, it is irrational for Romney to propose increasing defense spending.
While hoping to eliminate government waste is noble, Romney's proposal of blanket budget cuts is extreme. The former governor of Massachusetts wants to cut 5 percent of most domestic agency budgets and reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent. Why cut more jobs than overall spending? This is worrisome because it indicates unemployment is of less concern to Romney than perhaps it should be.
Cutting domestic agency budgets and planning to reduce the federal workforce will undoubtedly increase unemployment. Fortunately for those who lose their civilian jobs, the military will likely be hiring. Or will it? A problem with increased defense spending is much of it is ambiguous and can occur in sectors that have little to do with increasing the number of active-duty troops. Building more high-tech weaponry and next-generation delivery systems and increasing benefits for current personnel can cost billions of dollars without employing any additional citizens.
Critics of Romney's defense spending plans, as reported by the Boston Globe, question whether America has the industrial infrastructure to accommodate the potential glut of money Romney wants to push through military spending channels, with some believing planes and ships could not be built quickly enough to efficiently utilize Romney's proposed 4 percent of the annual GDP. The rest of the money would likely be quickly soaked up with salary increases, bonus pay and other frivolities.
And high-tech spending might not win future wars anyway. History is full of examples where a more advanced and well-funded aggressor was eventually bested by a determined and inventive opponent. The German Wehrmacht was ground to bits by the lower-tech, less-trained Red Army in World War II due to the Russians' ferocious determination and full mobilization of all available manpower.
The lower-tech Chinese Army pushed back higher-quality U.S. soldiers in the Korean War through sheer strength in numbers. During the 1960s and early 1970s, the North Vietnamese Army and their Viet Cong allies resisted the might of a high-tech American superpower. In the 1980s the Afghan mujahedin similarly withstood Soviet might and technology.
From the Roman Empire to the Soviet Union, history is also full of examples of empires that began to crack when their military spending began to exceed the resources devoted to promoting the welfare of citizens. Mitt Romney should pick up a history textbook and a highlighter.