The New York Times’ website has this fascinating interactive tool that allows people to decide how they would cut the military budget. It’s like the American Idol-izing of national security. I’d love to see a similar tool for other parts of the federal budget because, personally, I think I could do some real good on Education spending, and Social Security, and the Department of the Interior — I mean, what do they even do? – and Agriculture (why, oh why, do we pay farm subsidies? If no one is buying your crop, perhaps it’s time to grow something else…), and Commerce, which hasn’t exactly done so well these last few years, and … and so forth and so on, but for now the Department of Defense budget is the only Department being subjected to this Roman-style thumbs up-thumbs down from the public, so we’ll have to work with what we’ve got.
I also wish the Times would post the results. I’d love to see how many people would opt to eliminate retirement pensions in favor of a civilian-style 401 system (that’s one of the budget cutting options) or how many would eliminate DoD schools altogether (another option), but no such break down is given.
In case you’re wondering, I spent some time — not a whole lot of time, just a little time — pondering these choices and only managed to slash $254 million, and I felt pretty bad about most of things I chose to cut. I really debated on the military bands, for instance. Do we need them? No. But they don’t really cost that much compared to everything else in the budget, either. I’m still on the fence on that one, in fact.
Check it out for yourselves and feel free to chime in here and let us all know what you think is cut-able.
NOTE: Amy Bushatz, who blogs over at SpouseBuzz on the Military.com site, just informed me that if you actually do manage to cut $450 million from the Defense budget, you get an option to submit your plan and to see how other people elected to cut the budget. You don’t get to see those results if you, like me, only manage to cut a measly $254 million, though. So, if you’re curious, then go ahead and axe Tricare, just like 40 percent of Times readers did. Or, like 85 percent, you can choose to reduce the number of troops we have in Asia and Europe (btw, I really wish those two weren’t lumped in together. Europe — yes, maybe we don’t need so many people in Europe. But Asia (aka, South Korea) um, no. It’s looking like we might need to maintain a presence there, folks.) Reassuringly, only 17 percent opted to make military retirement pensions more like 401Ks. At least a majority of American civilians realize that no one is going to voluntarily risk their lives for their crappy retirement plans…