David Brooks nails it - or finally gets it, depending on how charitable you want to be with him.
Why are important projects now unaffordable? Decades ago, when the federal and state governments were much smaller, they had the means to undertake gigantic new projects, like the Interstate Highway System and the space program. But now, when governments are bigger, they don’t.A couple of years ago, the eldest of the wee Salamanders asked why when I was her age I had grown up watching rockets taking off for the moon. Why the spaceships in 2001: A Space Odyssey never happened even though the technology was there?
The answer is what Jonathan Rauch of the National Journal once called demosclerosis. Over the past few decades, governments have become entwined in a series of arrangements that drain money from productive uses and direct it toward unproductive ones.
New Jersey can’t afford to build its tunnel, but benefits packages for the state’s employees are 41 percent more expensive than those offered by the average Fortune 500 company. These benefits costs are rising by 16 percent a year.
New York City has to strain to finance its schools but must support 10,000 former cops who have retired before age 50.
California can’t afford new water projects, but state cops often receive 90 percent of their salaries when they retire at 50. The average corrections officer there makes $70,000 a year in base salary and $100,000 with overtime (California spends more on its prison system than on its schools).
States across the nation will be paralyzed for the rest of our lives because they face unfunded pension obligations that, if counted accurately, amount to $2 trillion — or $87,000 per plan participant.
In summary, I told her the answer was simple; we started electing and accepting politicians with no vision and no desire to lead and to do what was right. They were more interested in spending the nation's money on things that made them feel good about themselves - not make them feel good about their nation. They decided that they would rather buy votes than expand the knowledge of man (yes, I'm that kind of Dad). The wee Salamander was not happy - I told her it was the Boomer's fault too. Smart girl, she told me "I don't like Hippies, they're embarrassingly stupid." Tears of joy I tell you, tears of joy from a father ...
OK, back to the subject at hand. Now we are at the point where we steal from our grandchildren in order to ... to .... to do what? Fund more GS-13s to approve the work of GS-12s responding to metric calls from he Dept. of Edu? To fund studies to determine who will conduct the study of the impact of government studies on Ethnic Studies departments at major land-grant institutions? Really?
To fix this will take pain. It will take leadership. It will take a people willing to tell the government, "I don't want the money you just took from my children."
To quote Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) - the DOD better come up with better, more efficient plans.
As OMB director, Daniels was on the National Security Council, and as governor he's visited Indiana troops around the world; he says "it's important to support the commander in chief" on Afghanistan. But he's open to cuts in defense spending beyond those Secretary Robert Gates has imposed. "No question that the system is rigged to overspend," he says, "like health care. No question that defense dollars could be spent better."Gov. Daniels - we have ideas here, we've been discussing them for years. Let me give you the opening chapters - shall we review?
"But back to not becoming Greece," he says. "Can we continue with every mission we've assigned the military indefinitely? Is every one essential to the safety of Americans?"
"The answer may be yes," he concedes, "but you may have to stop doing some things completely. We are now borrowing the entire defense budget from international investors."
Remove all maneuver ground forces from Europe, Japan, and Korea. Maintain only Joint/Combined training and logistics bases with our allies with a minimum footprint focused on flexible surge response capabilities.
Eliminate 33% of all Flag/General Officer Staffs (GOFO). Count all personnel savings as actual real savings. Full, no N1 tricks. No transfer of personnel; existing Staffs will have to prioritize and economize. Cut personnel assigned to NATO Staff billets by same amount. Accelerate redeployment of forces from the Arabian peninsula and Iraq back to CONUS. Structure bases in the Muslim world as with Europe - if that.
Cut the ranks of GOFO and their personal Staffs by 50% - negotiate down to a 33% cut if needed. Eliminate the entire SES ranks - but negotiate to a 75% cut if needed. Eliminate 50% of GS and Contractor billets. We fought WWII with less. Let Gen. Mattis do it after he sadly retires if you must. I trust him.
Take remaining GOFO billets and reduce one paygrade except for COCOMS (i.e. Lt.Gen to MajGen). Replace the archaic Goldwater-Nichols Act with something new and better. It is a quarter-century old. If you cannot do that - reset to what worked last and adjust.
Move combat pay and allowences to a daily vice monthly basis - ditto combat exclusion tax-free time. No more "go slow to stay another day inside the line" or strange "we landed on the 30th and returned on the 2nd" trips - etc. Implement a 3-year pay-freeze for all DOD military and all DOD and non-DOD Federal civilian positions. For the next 5-year period after that - civilian raises must be at no-greater-than 75% of any military raise (i.e. military gets 2%, civ gets NGT 1.5%).
Eliminate LCS and transfer those displacing water to the USCG "slick" with their baseline equipment. Dump Mission Modules in Vernon, Michael, and Gary's back yard and move forward. Tell them to put it out with the medal recycling if they wish.
Europe can handle Russia as she slowly dies and demographically becomes a Muslim nation at the end of the century. If not - their problem. You can't help those who won't help themselves.
We must focus on our economic health. In the last two years we have tripled the national debt - this will take awhile to fix, if we can. A military budget will be part of this fixing.