The American government should drastically cut the excessive military budget, argued Barney Frank, the United States Representative for Massachusetts, during an Institute of Politics event at the Kennedy School on Wednesday evening.
“I’m frustrated because I believe we heavily overspend on the military to the detriment of our economy,” Frank said.
Frank said the U.S. devotes a “staggering” $650 billion to the military budget every year.
While European powers spend only 1.7 percent of GDP on the military, the U.S. spends nearly three times that amount.
Frank argued that the copious resources assigned to protecting American interests abroad are no longer necessary.
According to Frank, excessive military spending is a relic of the Cold War, when the serious threat of advancing communism jeopardized American values.
Today, the U.S. still protects European nations against the spread of the now nonexistent Soviet Union—a reflection of the American exceptionalist belief that God created America as an enforcer of order in the world.
If that is true, “I’m entitled to a refund on my bible,” said Frank.
Frank also suggests that Americans are unduly frightened by terrorism.
Although terrorism is often harder to combat than traditional armies, anti-terrorist efforts are generally less expensive than long, drawn-out wars because terrorists do not possess the same, advanced technology. Yet, according to Frank, the military budget has not declined.
“We do have to adopt a long range deficit reduction strategy,” Frank said.
As the country grapples with an overwhelming deficit, Frank argues that legislators will face a choice between military funding and entitlement programs.
Stephanie Wu ’15 was particularly struck by Frank’s description of deficit reduction as a “trade off.”
According to Frank, entitlement programs are not expendable—particularly those that fund education or create a “norm of middle class existence” for the elderly.
Without cuts to the military, “we can’t maintain the quality of life in America,” said Frank.
He suggests a drastic cut in the military budget of $200 billion, saved through decreased acquisition of strategic weapons, reduction in military strength abroad, particularly in Western Europe, and increased efficiency at the Pentagon.
Critics argue that a decline in military spending would erode American preeminence.
But Frank pointed out that Clinton managed to balance the budget, partially through drastic cuts in military spending, while maintaining American prestige abroad.
After all, according to Frank, military intervention is often futile.
“You can stop making people shoot each other, but we can’t make them love each other,” said Frank.
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