Category Archives: Cold War soldier

budget-cuts

Common Cents: Prioritizing Cost Cuts

Until 6 years ago, Grandma P and I lived in a small Midwestern town with a population of approximately 10,000 people.  (If you followed the Midwest winter weather, you know why we moved South!)  Like every level of government, our small city was having a difficult time balancing their budget.

This city, like many small cities, televised their city council meetings.  Televising these meetings had both a positive and negative outcome.

The positive outcome was that it allowed everyone in the city to view exactly what the mayor and the five city council members were accomplishing for the benefit of the city.

The negative outcome was that it allowed everyone in the city to view exactly what the mayor and the five city council members were failing to accomplish to the detriment of the city.

Oh yeah.  Televising the city council meetings presented quite a double-edged sword.

The council and mayor were supported by the city staff.  They had a city administrator.  He was the full-time person responsible for everything going on in the city, including the budget.  This particular city administrator had his ‘pet’ projects.  The best way to address this particular city administrator’s fiscal philosophy is to say that ‘he had champagne taste on a beer budget.’  Spending the city taxpayers’ money, or more importantly, overspending the taxpayers money did not appear to present any roadblocks.

Which  services do you think are the most important provided by a city?  Police?  Garbage removal? Parks and recreation?  Fire protection?  City-owned telephone company?  This particular city did not have its own police department.  They contracted with the County Sheriff for police protection, as it was economical.

Now back to the show!  The mayor poses the request to the administrator, ” Next meeting, we would like a list of possible areas where we could reduce spending.”  Simple enough request.  The next meeting arrives.  The meeting agenda gets to the item about budget cuts.  The mayor looks at the city administrator and asks for his findings about reducing spending.  It becomes obvious that the city administrator did not prepare, as requested in the previous meeting, nor does he want budget cuts.  He wants tax increases!   His off-the-cuff and unfortunately serious response?  “We could eliminate the fire department.”  WHAT???   Are you freakin’ kidding me?  The only service that the community could not live without, and this idiot suggests we eliminate our volunteer fire department.  The entire fire department consisted of three full-time people and some volunteers.  The next available fire engine was at least 20-30 minutes away!

I did not have a personality issue with the city administrator, but I did question his fiscal policies.  I was confident that he met his Waterloo!  He was toast!  Make that burnt toast!  The people of our fair city would rise up and demand his head be displayed atop a fire ladder for such a stupid suggestion!

This was ten years ago.  The end result?  He is still the city administrator, and the same mayor is still in power.  This is after a failed, costly attempt at creating a city-owned telephone company, which makes it all that more unbelievable that either one is still in place. (David versus AT&T!)

Enough of the paltry local issues!  On to Washington, D.C, where the big dogs reside!

Are you concerned about the proposed down-sizing of the Army?

If you have not been following what is happening, the current proposal is to reduce the Army to its pre-WWII size.   That would mean that our current Army strength of 520,000 would be cut to 440,000- 450,000 soldiers.  If the sequestration cuts are not rescinded by Congress, this number could be reduced to 420,000.  This would all take place within the next four years.

In effect, the Army would lose six brigade combat teams by 2019, leaving only 28 brigade combat teams.   To put this into perspective, there would be less people in the entire Army, than we had in Iraq during the first Iraqi war.

Additionally, the National Guard would be trimmed by 20,000 and the Army Reserve by 10,000.  This would result in 335,000 in the National Guard and a mere 195,000 in the Army Reserve.

Here is the clincher.  The Pentagon realizes that this would not be enough soldiers to fight even one major ground war.  Really?  Then why do it.  Have we learned nothing from our past history?  Are you not watching what is happening in the Ukraine?  Do you think that North Korea has changed its national anthem to ‘kumbaya?’  We appear  willing to commit our military into every ‘who gives a   Crap-i-stan’ in the world.  And the scariest of all: have you not observed the increase in the Chinese military?  (The Chinese navy is now larger than our Navy.  It may not be as modern, but they are rapidly closing that gap.)

This concerns me on so many levels that I am sure I could write a book about it.  Let me preface this by saying I am a retired officer from the Army and Army National Guard.  Like most military men and women, I felt my branch was the best branch.  Even though we have inter-service rivalries, I reached a staff level which allowed me to appreciate that every branch is necessary for a good, combined, winning team.  Each branch has their strengths.

I was a Cold War soldier.  Most of the war plans were for the defense of Western Europe from the invading Communist hoard.  The Cold War got pretty hot!  But I am intelligent enough to know that things drastically changed after September 11, 2001.  The face of the enemy has changed.  The battlefield has changed.  It does not mean that all our enemies have evaporated and disappeared.

How does this segue into my story about my former hometown?  Like the city administrator wanting to eliminate the fire department, our federal government is willing to reduce our Army to the brink of ineffectiveness.  I consider the fire department vital to the city and I wholeheartedly recognize the Army being vital to our national defense.  After all, our federal government was formed for two reasons, national defense and foreign trade.  It was not formed for the Departments of Education or Energy.  All those other expensive departments were later add-ons.

Here is the breakdown of the monies received by the three principle branches of the military.  Care to make a guess which branch gets the most?  Well, at number three on the list is the Army. They receive about $130 billion.  Next, at number two would be the Army Air Corps, today known as the Air Force. (I could not resist this jab at my zoomie friends!)  They receive $144 billion.  The number one service branch is the Navy with a budget of $156 billion.

I am a firm believer that there are many other advantages in maintaining a strong defense other than the obvious role of protecting our country.

The military has provided a springboard for aliens that have wanted to become American citizens.  I know some of these people.  They served in the military and obtained their citizenship.  They are some of the most dedicated, patriotic, productive American citizens that I know.  (Of course, this was some time ago.  Today we let illegal aliens invade our country, vote, and take advantage of our generosity, ie. welfare, Medicaid, scholarships, etc., without contributing anything to our country.)

Not all young people have the maturity to decide what they want from life immediately after they graduate from high school.  Many young people have matured, learned, and accepted responsibility while serving in the military.  I had plenty of young soldiers serve with me who absolutely loved the regimentation they had in the military.  They knew when they would eat, do P.T, sit in class, or perform their duties.  They loved it because it was contrary to the ‘hippy commune’ unregimented lifestyle that they had at home.  Strange, but true.

Many young people learn a marketable skill while in the military.  Once they are out, they can find gainful employment.  In the same vein, some choose to go to college or vocational schools with the assistance of any GI benefits that they may have earned.  They, too, become productive, contributing Americans.

I have often thought that ‘mandatory military’ would not be such a bad thing in our country.  Many countries have it.  Switzerland and Israel are the two prime examples.  Need proof?  Ask any military veteran if they were better off or worse off after being in the military.  I will guarantee you that 99% will say that they benefitted from their military experience.  They may not want to repeat the military, but most will admit that it made them a better person.

(It is difficult not to respect and salute our flag after having served under it.  Even though I enjoy the show Duck Dynasty, I get upset when I see Willy Robertson using a flag for a sweat band.!)

So how do we fund the Army specifically or our military in general so we can put a halt to the downsizing?

Well, the Department of Agriculture has a budget of $146 billion!  That’s larger than the Army budget!  Of course, $80 billion goes to the bloated food stamp program and much of the balance goes to farm subsidies.

We could eliminate the Department of Energy and save $33 billion.  The bulk of that budget is for alternate energy resources development. I view that as being the responsibility of private industry.  If there is money to be made, they will do it.

The Department of Education swallows $57 billion.

But most people do not realize that the budget for the Treasury Department is $500 billion!  That is more than the three principle service branches combined!  You are familiar with the Treasury Department.  They are responsible for paying the interest on our national debt.  This year, that interest on our debt amounts to $195 billion!   They are also the kind folks that fund the IRS Army!  The IRS Army cost the United States about the same amount as the US Army!  Holy Crap!

While the US Army was fighting terrorists on foreign soil, the IRS Army was fighting the Tea Party on American soil.  What is wrong with that picture?

The lesson to be learned?  The next time we have a conflict on foreign soil, send the IRS Army!  They may be bigger than the US Army after the proposed troop reductions.

We need to get our priorities in order and our spending in check!