By Lee V. Gaines
Congressman Barney Frank says Al-Qaeda and similar terrorist organizations "are not a threat of the order of the Nazis or Communists." So we shouldn't be spending our future on them.
If the plan to reduce the deficit in the next ten years doesn't include significant cuts in military spending, Frank said that the country faces detrimental decreases in domestic spending, including Medicare.
This Sunday, Frank addressed a large crowd of enthusiastic constituents at MassBay Community College in Wellesley. The event was part of a series of town hall meetings Frank is hosting throughout Massachusetts.
Frank said he will bring his argument to reduce military spending -- an issue he has worked on since 2010 -- to the Congressional "super committee" -- a bipartisan 12-member panel (including U.S. Sen. John Kerry. D-Beacon Hill) tasked with coming up with a proposal to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit over the next 10 years.
In his presentation, Frank provided several graphs and charts illustrating military spending at $714B in 2010 compared to $452B that same year.
According to Frank's numbers credited to the Office of Management and Budget, over half of the United State's discretionary budget was spent on the military in fiscal year 2010.
"We spend far more on the military than on Medicare," Frank said. Frank added that military spending exceeded funds spent on Medicaid, housing aid, local law enforcement and other departments that fall within the discretionary budget.
Frank proposed that in order to cut excess military spending, the U.S. should remove troops from stations overseas.
"The first thing that we can do is withdraw totally our military personnel form Afghanistan and Iraq," Barney said to applause. "And then we go elsewhere."
Barney referenced the military personnel stationed in Europe, China and Japan. "We have too many commitments," Frank said.
"[Former president] Harry Truman did a courageous thing; [he] undertook the defense of Europe, it was weak and poor after World War II [and faced a] very powerful, very aggressive Soviet Union and what Truman did was to intervene between the poor and weak European countries and an aggressive Soviet Union."
But, Frank said, "two of those three elements no longer exist the only thing that hasn't changed is we are still protecting now-strong nations against a non-existent threat."
Frank also addressed the issue of terrorism and it's impact on military spending.
"For most of the American existence there was an ability to ignore the rest of the world, then comes 1940," Frank said. "And from 1940 to 1990 there were very bad people [out there that wanted to do us harm] and we had to arm, I think we overdid it in some cases but there were threats to the United States. But we are back to a normal situation. There is nothing in the world that affects our ability to live in a free society."
Money used to fight terrorism at home comes from the domestic discretionary budget and not out of the military portion, Frank said
"I've been frustrated because I've held this view [on military spending] for awhile," Frank said. "It's been hard to get attention, I think the exaggeration of terrorism as an existential threat to society plays some part in politicians erring on side of safety."
As the super committee works on a bipartisan deal to cut the deficit, Frank said that the issue at hand is not whether or not spending cuts will come, they will, he said. But rather, if the committee decides to exempt the military from these cuts, "you savage everything else."