CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's two Republicans in Congress, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. David McKinley, say they're eager for federal budget-cutting negotiations during the three-month Washington reprieve after the U.S. government shutdown (which Capito and McKinley helped cause).
Typically, the GOP notion of budget-cutting means trying to slash Social Security for retirees, college scholarships for teens, food stamps for the poor, Medicare for seniors, school lunches for pupils and other people-helping programs -- while giving bigger tax breaks to billionaires.
The shutdown perpetrated by Capito, McKinley and fellow House Republicans knocked $24 billion out of America's economy. Maybe a good start for budget negotiations would be a pledge never to inflict such damage again.
Meanwhile, here's our favorite way to reduce federal spending: Curtail the $1 trillion of taxpayer money that is poured into militarism yearly.
America is the world's most militaristic nation, spending more for arms that almost the rest of the planet combined. Other modern democracies don't bankrupt themselves in this manner. They don't feel a need for such gigantic war preparation. None spends even one-tenth as much. Why is America is an outsize exception?
In reality, international warfare has almost vanished in the 21st century. Civilization seems to be entering a long-desired peaceful phase. Today, the only remaining conflicts are local civil insurrections and suicide terrorism by hidden cliques of fanatics. Large armies, navies and air forces are ineffective against such threats. The only things needed are killer drones and commando squads.
Not long ago, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that "the Pentagon now spends roughly twice as much as it did in 2001," counting horrendous costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars. Veteran costs and interest on past military spending done with borrowed money push the U.S. military total somewhere around $1 trillion annually.
The "sequester" previously imposed by Congress mandates $450 billion cuts to the Pentagon over the next decade. But we think U.S. militarism should be downsized more than $45 billion per year. A Center for International Policy analysis said economic security is more essential to America than military security is.
"Every dollar we spend on the Pentagon comes at the expense of a dollar for education, or infrastructure, or energy research, or essential state and local government services," the report said. "That means that unnecessary military spending can result in a net loss of jobs nationwide."
If Capito, McKinley and other Republicans in Congress genuinely want to reduce government spending -- and not merely slash the public "safety net" while favoring billionaires -- they should endorse a major downsizing of needless militarism.