Brooklyn’s Own Bernie Sanders, recently highlighted in his taxpayer-funded and built website his views on a couple of big-ticket budget items. One item is a familiar whipping horse for the good Senator, defense spending, and the other are largely entitlements. In Bernie’s World, one type of spending is necessary, good, and required, and the other type, is, well, let’s let Bernie speak for himself. Strap in:
Bloated Defense Budget Approved
“It was nearly midnight on Thursday when the Senate passed the Department of Defense bill that would authorize $625 billion for the military. The vote was 84–15. Those voting against the bill included Sanders, two Democrats and 12 Republicans. “At a time when the United States has a $17.2 trillion national debt, huge unmet social needs, and when we spend almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, the time is long overdue for us to take a hard look at the waste, cost overruns and financial mismanagement that have been plagued the Defense Department for years.” ”
So Sanders finally acknowledges the debt problem, one he himself has helped created by historically passing budget bills (or failing to pass a budget for four years, and just voting for continuing resolutions – hard to know what the Senate’s priorities are when it won’t put a budget out of committee), but singles out a smaller parts of the budget – and one that creates actual real-world jobs – for his high-powered scrutiny.
Speaking of waste, cost overruns, and financial mismanagement – at the end of a working day, the country has working carrier battle groups, squadrons of combat-ready aircraft, the biggest logistics reach in the world, and nuclear missiles that can hit any target on the planet – but Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid’s massive unfunded liabilities which are 4x-5x the current debt of $17 trillion are not a problem?
Oh, and the $17.2 trillion? That debt is less than all the dollars spent on “Great” Society programs since the 1960’s – programs like Medicare, Medicaid, HUD programs – you name it. How much has been spent since 1964?
Since President Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty in 1964, the federal government has spent approximately $20 trillion on means-tested welfare aid. Today, means-tested assistance is the fastest-growing part of government, with the nation spending more on welfare than on national defense. Under the Obama Administration, welfare spending has increased dramatically. For example, since FY 2008, spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp program, more than doubled from $37.6 billion to $78.4 billion for FY 2012. The tremendous growth in the SNAP budget means that more and more Americans are dependent on the program. In 1969, 1.4 percent of the population or about 2.9 million people participated in the program. By 2008, the participation rate increased to 9.3 percent of the population with 28.2 million individuals receiving benefits. In 2011, 44.7 million people (14.3 percent of the population) participated in the program. (See Chart 12.) The figure for FY 2012 is 14.8 percent—meaning that one of every 6.7 people in the nation is participating in the program. Over the next 10 years, total welfare spending is expected to cost taxpayers $12.7 trillion. The Obama Administration has worked rapidly to expand the welfare state further.Such growth is clearly unsustainable.
The Constitution says “provide for the common defense”; it does not say anything about “provide cradle-to-grave entitlements”. Nor does it say anything about Senators creating unfunded liabilities, including Social Security, Medicare, and federal employees’ retirement benefits, is over $86.8 trillion. From the WSJ:
The actual liabilities of the federal government—including Social Security, Medicare, and federal employees’ future retirement benefits—already exceed $86.8 trillion, or 550% of GDP. For the year ending Dec. 31, 2011, the annual accrued expense of Medicare and Social Security was $7 trillion. Nothing like that figure is used in calculating the deficit. In reality, the reported budget deficit is less than one-fifth of the more accurate figure.
Defense spending is an annual line item; those dollars are spent in the fiscal year for which they are budgeted. Considering that defense spending is routinely 20% or less of the federal budget, not over 60% that the entitlement programs roll up to annually, and that 60% does not include the unfunded liabilities, why doesn’t Senator Sanders focus on the real problem – entitlements – instead of defense spending? In 2011, the combined budget for Social Security and Medicare was over 1 trillion dollars. It goes up annually from there. We spent our first trillion dollar budget in 1987. In 2013, we celebrated the fact that our annual deficit was under 1 trillion dollars for the first time in five Obama budget years.
But Senator Sanders doesn’t care about the big problems – only the same smaller ones, that are easier to demonize. Never let a small thing like math get in the way of expanding federal spending in the areas that get him re-elected. Oh, and what’s really “bloated” here is federal entitlement spending, not defense. And certain Senators from Brooklyn.