Greenwald on the sanctity of defense spending:
The facts about America's bloated, excessive, always-increasing military spending are now well-known. The U.S. spends almost as much on military spending as the entire rest of the world combined, and spends roughly six times more than the second-largest spender, China. Even as the U.S. sunk under increasingly crippling levels of debt over the last decade, defense spending rose steadily, sometimes precipitously. That explosion occurred even as overall military spending in the rest of the world decreased, thus expanding the already-vast gap between our expenditures and the world's. As one "defense" spending watchdog group put it: "The US military budget was almost 29 times as large as the combined spending of the six 'rogue' states (Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) who spent $14.65 billion."
An obvious objection springs to mind--the U.S. is a much larger country. But more to the point, the unwillingness to even consider cutting defense spending is alarming. Here's Greenwald on public opinion:
Public opinion is not a legitimate excuse for this utterly irrational conduct, as large percentages of Americans are receptive to reducing -- or at least freezing -- defense spending. A June, 2009 Pew Research poll asked Americans what they would do about defense spending, and 55% said they would either decrease it (18%) or keep it the same (37%); only 40% wanted it to increase. Even more notably, a 2007 Gallup poll found that "the public's view that the federal government is spending too much on the military has increased substantially this year, to its highest level in more than 15 years." In that poll, 58% of Democrats and 47% of Independents said that military spending "is too high" -- and the percentages who believe that increased steadily over the last decade for every group.
If I recall correctly, in The Limits Of Power Andrew Bacevich argues that defense (and presumably defense spending) should be seen in the light of Americans asking our military to essentially preserve our (untenable) way of life. In other words defense spending was tied to things like, say, oil prices and cheap goods. I don't know the details, but this makes intuitive sense to me. It also makes me wonder about how much of an appetite we actually have for less defense spending.
It's also one of the reasons why talk of preserving the "American way of life" makes me skeptical. One wonders if that's part of the problem.