A sentiment attributed to Vice President Joe Biden is, Show me what’s in your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value. These words resonate with me whenever I consider the yearly budget for the Department of Defense (DoD), Homeland Security, the Department of Energy (which handles nuclear weapons), and the various intelligence agencies (roughly 17; that’s why they form a community).
When you add up what we spend on defense, homeland security, “overseas contingency operations” (wars), nuclear weapons, and intelligence and surveillance operations, the sum approaches $750 billion dollars each and every year, consuming more than two-thirds of the federal government’s discretionary spending.
Here are some figures for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15):
Defense: “Base” budget of $496 billion
Afghan War (not part of “defense”): $85 billion
VA: $65 billion
Homeland Security: $38 billion
Nuclear Weapons: $12 billion
FBI and Cyber Security (part of Justice Department budget): $18 billion
Total: $714 billion
Some of the budget of the State Department and for foreign aid supports weapons and training (“foreign military sales”), bringing us to roughly three-quarters of a trillion dollars, each and every year, on the military, intelligence, security, weapons, and wars.
How much do we spend at the federal level on education, interior, and transportation? Roughly $95 billion.
When a government spends almost eight times as much on its military, security, wars, weapons, and the like as it does on educating its youth, fixing its roads and bridges and related infrastructure, and maintaining its national parks and land, is there any question what that country ultimately values?
Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value. Sobering words. Sobering — and scary.