1. “Investing in Silver, Moving out of the Dollar: The Roman Denarius, the American Dollar and the Return of Silver?”
2. “The Trickery of the Military Budget
More than 50% of US Government Spending Goes to the Military
A key federal budget trick is using words to confuse citizens, such as labeling U.S. military spending as “defense” though much is for “offense” and sliding costs for wounded soldiers under “veterans affairs” and nuclear bombs under “energy,” as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar explains.
As budgetary battles proceed with competing rhetorical salvos about what parts of government spending are unreasonably large, or are most out of control, or are the “real” reason for burgeoning deficits (actually, every part of the budgetary equation, on both the expenditure and the revenue sides, is just as real as every other part), one welcomes the occasional breath of fresh semantic air on the subject.
Probably the most egregious bit of military-related budgetary legerdemain has been the practice of keeping the operational costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan separate from the main Pentagon budget, as if those costs should not count as much because they are, well, sort of temporary. And so the base budget figure continues to get cited as “defense spending” even though it excludes the main, and costliest, activities in recent years of the U.S. military.
Misleading budgetary labeling is by no means confined to military spending. Grouping some government programs under the label “entitlements” — which are programs or obligations where expenditures do not reflect specific congressional appropriations but instead are determined automatically by such things as how many people happen to qualify for a statutorily defined benefit — can be justly criticized on several grounds.
One is that there is wide variation among such obligations or programs, and no reason that a single standard with a single label should apply to all of them. Another is that “entitlement” is a loaded term that implies an agreed moral obligation even when there might not be one. The term also implies — especially when contrasted with other parts of federal spending, which bear the label “discretionary” — that Congress’s hands are tied in changing this even if they really aren’t.
George Will has said that all federal spending is discretionary other than interest on the national debt. In one legalistic sense he may be right, although if one accepts that position then the extortion-facilitating device known as the debt ceiling — which treats as an option non-payment of interest on debt already incurred — looks all the more foolish and unwarranted.
Applying a common moral sense of “entitlement” to federal expenditures does not produce a classification that corresponds to the budgetary categories of entitlements and discretionary spending. Wouldn’t we all agree, for example, that wounded veterans are entitled to government-paid long-term care? And yet medical programs of the Veterans Administration come under the “discretionary” label. (And that care constitutes a big chunk of the military-related expenditure that usually does not get included as “defense spending.”)
There also is wide variation in the amount of discretion entailed in different government activities that are on the “discretionary” side of the ledger, even without getting into the questions of political feasibility that inhibit changes to many of the “entitlement” programs. Much that is labeled “discretionary” is necessary for what has come to be widely expected as a function of government.
Also back on military matters, we should note that “entitlement” is not the only loaded term when discussing budgetary categories. “Defense” and “national security” are loaded as well. They are labels that presume a priority and importance that things not bearing those labels are presumed not to have.”