Money Matters

As you are doubtless aware, the college football season started recently. In fact, it started with a game in Dublin, Ireland between Notre Dame and the United States Naval Academy. That’s right, they flew the Naval Academy’s football team to Ireland to play a game. That would be our tax dollars, folks, part of our “defense” spending. And we might also note the “fly overs” at a number of other major games last weekend that have become a part of the jingoistic spectacle that is now American sports and which probably cost a dollar or two of our “defense” spending as well.

And we could total up the bill with other recreational spending on the military here and all over the globe where we have forces protecting us against whoever it is they are protecting us against. I suspect the cost of softballs alone would feed a family of four for a year. But that is speculation because I doubt very many people are privy to the inside dope on just what our defense spending goes toward. Ron Paul’s son recently had the audacity to suggest that there should be an audit of the Pentagon, but that suggestion fell on deaf ears and closed Republican minds.

But the Republicans are eager to cut federal spending and bring the government down a peg in order to help balance the budget. Yeah, right! So where will the cuts come from? You guessed it, social programs. 60% of the federal budget in the coming year will go to “defense” spending — Department of Defense, war, veterans affairs, and nuclear weapons programs. 6% will go to health and human services, 6% to education, 5% to the individual states, 4% to the Department of Homeland Security, 3% to Housing and Urban Development, and 4.5% to other programs. Oh, and there’s also a projected 1.5% that will go to helping develop and support new energy programs other than nuclear weapons programs. There are a few other piddling items, but you can see from this list where the major cuts will come — given that the “defense” budget will actually be increased in the future if the Republicans have their way. The cuts will come from programs designed to help folks survive and better themselves. Paul Ryan, for example, has suggested that Pell Grants be frozen or reduced in order to force the colleges and universities to reduce tuition costs for the nation’s college students.

Ryan’s suggestion reminds me of one of our local legislators who pushed through the Minnesota legislature a plan to increase the speed limits on two-lane country roads in order to reduce the speed of the vehicles and reduce accidents on country roads. That’s right: increase the speed limits in order to reduce the speed of local traffic. You heard it here, folks, it’s called “newspeak” or “policalese.” Whatever you call it, it’s hogwash and Ryan’s plan to cut Pell Grants in order to reduce tuition costs for students falls in that category.

Thus, if this crew is elected to run our government, we can brace ourselves for cuts to social programs that help people receive an adequate education, feed themselves, and find temporary shelter when they fall on hard times — while, at the same time, the military gets more money for softballs, golf balls, tennis balls, fly overs, and trips to Ireland to play football. I begin to know how Alice felt in Wonderland.

14 thoughts on “Money Matters

    • I wonder. More evidence of the power of the NCAA and the money involved in “big time” football (see my “the Tail That Wags The Dog.”)


  1. According to CNBC, it cost the Navy about $109,000 to have four F-18s do their flyover at the latest Super Bowl. The Navy views that as advertising, and it is certainly much less expensive than buying an actual 30-second ad during the Super Bowl. But to your larger point, Hugh, no question our spending on defense is way out of whack. Yes, we have some duties as the world’s policeman as a result of “winning the Cold War,” and I don’t know that I’d want the Iranians patrolling the seas instead of us. But does the U.S. really need to account for nearly half of the world’s military spending as it did in 2010? (see chart No way. A lot of our societal ills tied to budget constraints could be helped by cutting back the defense budget.

    Paul Ryan, the budget “guru,” of the GOP, has an odd formula for balancing the budget — more tax cuts (for the rich) and more defense spending. Even my basic math skills tell me something’s amiss there. And Ryan’s plan does not seem to account for the half-million or so suddenly unemployed federal workers he’d create (loss of more tax revenue right there, plus higher social service demands).

    • I get the feeling Ryan just opens his mouth and worries about what he said later on! Thanks for the info about the fly overs. I wonder how much the government spends on softballs! I dare say it would be more than a family of four would need to live on for a year!


  2. There could easily be a 10% cut in the military budget, and no one would even notice. As an ex AF Pilot, I love seeing the flyovers. Having said that, my life would go on just fine if they didn’t exist. The AF has the Thunderbirds as their advertisement team, the Navy the Blue Angels, the Army the Knights. So really, we are already spending millions to advertise the military, we need not spend more.

    Waste in the military is incredible. I remember taking off an airplane, flying once around the pattern, landing and parking, so that the squadron could call that a completed “mission” to make their numbers look good.

    Rep. Boehner tried to force a second engine development for the F-22 (I believe) which would cost billions, but would go to his district. This was something the pentagon had no use or desire for.

    Extra “Warthogs” were built by Fairchild aircraft, becuase the local representative wanted the $$$ for his district. Never mind the pentagon again had no use for them.

    I think one point is military waste seems to be as much from Congress as it is the Pentagon.

    And I think the cuts need be in weapons, not in benefits or salary to servicepeople or their dependents. I recall one point of the Ryan plan is cuts to the Veterans Administration of 25%. What a wonderful way to say “thanks” to the troops who have sacrificed in Irag and Afghanistan, the two longest wars in our history.

    Great post, thanks for writing it and sharing

  3. Hugh, it’s hard to say, but the power of advertising in America is an amazing thing. It must work to some extent if you look at what is paid for a Super Bowl commercial or all the promotional trailers for blockbuster movies (sometimes marketing is a third or more of a movie’s entire budget. Crazy). The military, especially after the National Guard was repeatedly dragged over to Iraq and Afghanistan, had a stretch where recruiting was way down. Not that I think either war is worth what we’ve expended in lives (our military and civilians there) and money, but I can see where the military would look for ways to get the most bang, so to speak, for its marketing expenses. Plus, as Barneysday mentioned, the flyovers are impressive. But, as he also pointed out with very nice detail, man there is a lot of waste (with Congress’ help).

    … further on Paul Ryan, I’d really like to see him try to live in the America he seems to want to create.

  4. … one more thing on Paul Ryan. It might be funny for the Democrats to make a commercial drawing some Glenn Beck-like-illogical circles: You’ve got Ron Paul, who ran for president and whose supporters remain a vocal, potent voice in the GOP, enough to have caused ripples at the convention. Ron Paul’s son, Rand Paul, was elected in 2010 to the U.S. Senate from Kentucky on the back of the Tea Party.

    Paul Ryan’s economic (and life) philosophy was largely developed through his reading of the novels of Ayn Rand. So you’ve this strange set of links: Paul Ryan-Ayn Rand-Rand Paul-Ron Paul.

    Maybe that’s something for Jon Stewart and the Daily Show to tackle!

  5. I think you have a few of your facts wrong. When a college game is played overseas, it’s the NCAA that foots the great majority of the bill. The NCAA wants to make money, and an easy way to do that is to expand its fan base beyond just the United States. Thus, occasionally it has football and basketball overseas. It foots much of the bill and often pays the two teams above and beyond the bills.

    Flyovers come out of the military budget. The military needs people to continue to enroll in its services. Remember that there is no draft anymore so people have to enter the service voluntarily. Flyovers are the military’s rendition of advertising and marketing. Can’t begrudge them that because I sure don’t want to go back to a draft. As long as there are people who actually want to be at death’s door for four years, I say let them, and let’s support them, not begrudge them their few flyovers.

    • Thanks for the fact-check. I knew the NCAA p[aid part of the bill, but I was given to understand that much of it comes from our tax money. But it is simply one example out of thousands that we could pick! I wouldn’t care about the flyovers if they were done instead of recruiters all over the country. But they are in addition to the recruiters.


      • The game also has to have the potential to make money overseas. You won’t find Sam Houston State University (Texas) playing University of California Riverside overseas. The market’s not there like it is for Notre Dame and Navy.

        Almost every home game at Texas A&M University (my alma mater) has a flyover. It’s because Texas A&M has a Corps of Cadets numbering 2,200 or so and commissions more military officers than any other school outside of the five military academies. Except in the rares of circumstances, all of the flyover pilots are graduates of Texas A&M. There are those children at the game who see the flyover and set their hearts on doing that exact same thing thirty years down the road.

  6. your opening sentence made me smile, as i am in the small minority of people who was not aware that football season had started! the talk of the town on coastal ecuador is usually about the weather! (it’s cool here!)

    we lose power a lot, so i open lots of windows for offline reading. this morning i enjoyed this while wondering how long it would be before power was restored! \\

    how sad that so little is spent on educating the students who become our future. the percentages are way out of whack – most everyone agrees that exceptional education is critical; how did we lose our voice?

    i continue to wonder what the world must think of us….

    • Less and less, I fear — as we continue to order drone strikes, fail to prosecute those who tortured prisoners, and keep the detention facility open at Guantanamo Bay! Thanks for reading. I appreciate it.


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