Monday, September 26, 2011

Max Boot still sounds like Paul Krugman

I noted recently that conservative hawk Max Boot was starting to sound like Paul Krugman. Today, he again makes the economic case for leaving the military budget untouched:
If the Pentagon is forced to slash a trillion dollars during the next decade—which would amount to an 18 percent reduction from the Obama budget projections released earlier this year—the Committee staff projects the total size of the Army and Marine Corps could fall from 771,400 personnel today to just 571,000, a 25 percent reduction that would make it impossible to respond to a range of different contingencies around the world. Some 200,000 soldiers and Marines who signed up to serve their country will be fired—and many of them will be hard put to find work at a time when the national unemployment rate is over 9 percent and the unemployment rate for young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is believed to be over 20 percent. (For wounded veterans the rate is said to be over 40 percent.) We would not only be breaking faith with these heroes but also jeopardizing our security—and that of our allies—in the process.
Again, that's the Krugman argument against recession austerity—that reduced budgets kicks thousands and thousands of public employees off the payroll into an unwelcoming job market. Soldiers, sailors, and marines are to be exempt from this process because they provide us security. Police and firefighters, apparently, don't.

But wait. There's also our security. What valuable security interests do we have that require 771,400 soldiers and Marines that 571,000 won't? Boot doesn't answer that question—there's always danger out there, nebulous though it may be. Instead, he relies ever-more-heavily on the economics argument, even noting that cutting a number of weapons programs will result in private-sector layoffs:
Cutting all these programs will result in even more job losses—the report projects at least 25 percent of the civilian defense workforce will have to be furloughed, resulting in the elimination of 200,000 jobs.
Again: The argument applies just as well to non-defense sectors of government spending.

Do we owe our veterans something more than unfettered capitalism? Maybe. Do we need to have a rough-and-ready defense force ready to protect our country? Sure. But the government is tightening its belt. We have to live within our means—and maybe that means giving up the ability to invade countries on the other side of the planet.  But if the primary argument against defense cuts is that it will harm the economy, and the unemployment rate, then that argument applies to the rest of government as well. Our military is special—but it's not that special.

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