• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Entitlements Crowd Out Defense Spending, and It’s Only Getting Worse

    Last week’s Wall Street Journal called attention to an issue that most policymakers in Washington don’t want to talk about: President Obama and Congress’ ever-growing welfare state will quickly undermine national security and military strength similar to many European countries.

    Indeed, declining military strength will limit the choices available to any U.S. President. Yet, providing for the defense of the American people should not be a choice. Rather it is the fundamental responsibility in government, but few would know it these days.

    The U.S. government is set to run overwhelming bud­get deficits long into the future, and the principal reason is the growth in entitlement costs, not increased defense funding since 9/11.

    Since 1970, the historical ratio between defense spending and entitlement spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security has flipped. In 1970, total defense spending was 8.1 percent of our economy or Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — more than twice the 3.8 percent of GDP spent on the big three entitlement programs.

    Today, the core defense program has fallen to 3.9 percent of GDP, while entitlement spending has more than doubled to 9.6 per­cent of GDP. By 2030, the big three entitlements will absorb roughly 81 percent of all federal revenue if taxes are rightly held at historical levels. This crowds out defense and homeland security spending and threatens the historically low-tax, high-growth U.S. economy.

    As a nation at war, the U.S. is spending remarkably little on core defense. Congress is currently spending so wildly it will yet again be forced to increase the federal debt limit above its current ceiling of $12.1 trillion. Yet in 2009 defense spending only accounted for 17 percent of total outlays.

    Budgeting by definition requires trade-offs, which is why the President and Congress must think carefully about the impact the tsunami of entitlement spending will have on national security.

    Co-authored by Steve Keen.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Entitlements Crowd Out Defense Spending, and It’s Only Getting Worse

    1. J.C. Hughes, Texas says:

      The following paragraph is from my response to a recent letter printed in our town's newspaper.

      "In using the Preamble to our Constitution 'to promote the general welfare' in an attempt to justify current proposed health-care legislation, [name removed] is misinterpreting its meaning. When placed in context, the Preamble states that the federal government is to provide for a common defense, thus promoting the general welfare by creating a secure environment. An effective national security allows states to provide services and free markets to prosper. This is supported by Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Any reform efforts on the part of Congress should be aimed at returning social entitlement and [impoverished] welfare oversight back to the individual states, where such offerings belong."

    2. Freedom of Speech, T says:

      Good One JC,

      Simply put, nothing else can thrive let alone survive without national defense, first.

      Live within our means but never sacrifice national defense. That giant gaping hole on our southern border has already let in people who would scare you to death. God knows what the Zetas and others are transporting.

      The must fundamental and important role of every elected official has already been compromised – the security of this country.

      The "naysayers" will never understand the basic survival need for security first.

    3. Pingback: A Huge Problem Requires a Bold Solution pt. 2 - pilgrim’s blog - RedState

    4. Pingback: Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning Holding To His Guns « A Conservative Wanderer

    5. Pingback: The "Ever-Expanding" Government Sector, Illustrated

    6. Pingback: BlueRidgeForum » Post-Election Action Menus for Tea Partiers & Conservatives

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×