Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The current topic of the month in Washington is the budget and tax reform. Both are subjects worthy of discussion. The Republican party wants to cut taxes, which everyone in the country agrees is a good idea. After all, who wouldn't like a tax cut? This will lead to decreased revenue for the government and government programs; just look at Kansas if you need proof. Very conservative members of the House and Senate have clamored for spending reductions to offset this reduced revenue. So far so good. Everyone believes in reducing spending on programs they don't participate in and will fight to death to protect programs that benefit them or their states personally.

Congress has centered the discussion on "entitlements", i.e. social programs. The one area that no one talks about is defense spending. Defense spending as currently constituted is little more than corporate welfare. We are spending enormous sums for Aircraft Carriers ($13 billion per), jet fighters that don't fly all that well (F-35), new littoral ship that can't keep salt water out of the engines (a problem that was solved when the Monitor and the Merrimack fought) and other expensive hardware. They say Generals and Admirals are always fighting the last war and in the case of the U.S. budget it seems to be spot on. In today's world the way to have global impact is in cyber space. It seems that Russia, for the price of a couple of decent laptops and a really good internet connection, is having its way with the western democracies. Recent events have shown that elections can be significantly impacted by social media and the Russians have focused their energies on that aspect. We continue to focus our spending on shiny new ships and planes while the largest threat we face is from hacking and misinformation. If you want to fund tax cuts, skip a few ships and tanks and buy some Dell laptops and engage our geopolitical rivals in the arena of the future.