Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria writes that “the real scandal” of our hyperpolarized political age is what Democrats and Republicans agree on. That statement reads like an overly casual, pox-on-both-their-houses dismissal of a long list of very real scandals over the last couple of years, but let's ignore that for the moment because Zakaria makes a compelling argument about what he describes as a “cancerous consensus” around the U.S. defense budget.
House Democrats want to provide $733 billion for defense next year, while President Trump and Republicans want $750 billion. “In other words, on the largest item of discretionary spending in the federal budget, accounting for more than half of the total, Democrats and Republicans are divided by 2.3 percent,” Zakaria says. “That is the cancerous consensus in Washington today."
“The United States’ defense budget is out of control, lacking strategic coherence, utterly mismanaged, ruinously wasteful and yet eternally expanding. Last year, after a quarter-century of resisting, the Pentagon finally subjected itself to an audit — which, in true Pentagon style, cost more than $400 million. Most of its agencies — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps — failed. …
“President Trump says he is a savvy businessman. Yet his attitude toward the Pentagon is that of an indulgent parent. ‘We love and need our Military and gave them everything — and more,’ he tweeted last year. Far from bringing rationality to defense spending, he has simply opened the piggy bank while trying to slash spending on almost every other government agency. The Pentagon is the most fiscally irresponsible government agency, but the Republicans’ response has been to simply give it more.
“The much deeper danger, however, is spotlighted by Jessica Tuchman Mathews in a superb essay in the New York Review of Books. Mathews points out that we tend to think about the defense budget as a percentage of the country’s gross domestic product, which is fundamentally erroneous. The defense budget should be related to the threats the country faces, not the size of its economy.”