David Leonard, in today's NY Times, has a deceptively straight-forward piece about the debate over the debt ceiling, in which he states that the US cannot (i) maintain its social welfare programs, (ii) continue to have the world's biggest military, and (iii) also have distinctly low rates of taxation. Something among those three, he tells us, has to give.
What's important about Leonard's essay is that he recognizes that there is a trade-off among these three elements--military spending, social welfare spending, and taxation--and not just the latter two.
By contrast, the negotiations between the White House and congressional leaders in recent weeks, and the public debate as well, have proceeded as if the trade-off is only between social welfare spending and taxation--with there being almost no mention of military spending.
Thus, even as Democrats in Congress have protested against any cuts in social security and medicaire as part of a deficit reduction plan, they have failed to put cuts in military-spending on the table. They have failed, in short, to argue that we can and should reduce the deficit by shrinking the United States's over-sized military. That--along with a more progressive tax system--is what progressives should be championing as the path forward.
That substantial cuts to the military budget have not even been on the table in these negotiations reminds us again how sacrosanct U.S. militarism has become--and how frightened Democrats are of ever appearing insufficiently hawkish.