Should We Cut 'Useless' Defense Spending?

Paul Krugman and Robert Samuelson both say no, but for different reasons
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 31, 2011 1:41 PM CDT
The US Air Force's new stealth fighter F-22A Raptor arrives at Kadena US Air Base in Okinawa, February 2007.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – With the deficit super committee’s deadline looming, debate is raging over whether to cut defense spending. Robert Samuelson calls that urge "dangerous," writing in the Washington Post that military spending is actually down as a percentage of our budget. In recent decades "spending on social programs replaced military spending, but that shift has gone too far," he writes. Paul Krugman tackles the same topic for the New York Times, mocking people who favor military spending over domestic spending as "weaponized Keynesians."

The term, invented by Barney Frank, applies to people who argue that cutting defense spending will hurt jobs—but that cutting other spending won’t. "Oh the hypocrisy!" Krugman writes. John Keynes himself noted that “wasteful” spending was politically advantageous. After all, spend on a real goal, and you’ll be lambasted if you fail. “Spend money on weapons systems we don’t need, and those voices are silent, because nobody expects F-22s to be a good business proposition.” But he thinks the reason conservatives are so focused on “useless, or, even better, destructive” defense projects is because they’re afraid spending money on useful things like bridges or alternative energy would show the public the true value of Keynsian economics—and harm their anti-tax, anti-regulation agenda.

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