Friday, December 17, 2010

Don't Cut The Department of State

In fiscal year 2010, the budget for the Department of State was a little over $40 billion dollars. The budget for the Department of Defense was nearly $700 billion dollars. So naturally, for Republicans wanting to chisel away at the deficit, the obvious thing to do is to "make significant cuts" to State. Ur, say what?

That is exactly what Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wants to do.
"In November, the voters made it clear that if we don't take the correct approach to policy by keeping our economy foremost in our decisions, they're going to ship us all out," she said. "Republicans got the message and are committed to making ‘the people's House' work for the people again.  As Chairman of this Committee, I will work to restore fiscal discipline to foreign affairs, reform troubled programs and organizations, exercise vigorous oversight to identify waste, fraud, and abuse, and counter the threats posed to our nation by rogue states and violent extremists." 
Sounds great, except the State Department has been operating on lean funds for years, while the Defense Department gets all the money and most of the missions. Here is a neat little graph that shows exactly what I am talking about.

Calling for cuts in the State Department's budget is kind of like calling for a moratorium on earmarks. It does nothing to actually bring down the deficit. Such calls are only made in order to make the politicians who make them look like they are doing something. It allows these politicians the opportunity of avoiding actual discussions about real things.

Furthermore, I just do not understand why State gets slightly more funds than the Department of Interior. If Republicans want to show they can govern, they should cut out the populist bullcrap that the United States spends too much money on foreign aid. They should start advocating for less funding for Defense and more funding for State.

The Republicans weren't always anti-diplomacy. It was Ronald Reagan's relationship with Gorbachev that played a significant role in the demise of the Soviet Union. And then there was Henry Kissinger, who as I recall, wrote a rather important tome on the subject.


Anonymous said...

Ronald Reagan's buildup of the Defense Department played a greater role in the demise of the Soviet Union. According to the Constitution, national defense is a legitimate function of the federal government. The Defense Department is a bad place to start making cuts.

Health and Human Services was not a part of the original Constitutional mandate, and that department costs more than the Defense Department. If we are going to start cutting, that's a good place to start. The fact that so many of the federal government's efforts in this area have done more harm than good is a better reason to cut there.

Education, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development are other expensive departments that are a good place to start cutting because they are not part of the original Constitutional mandate. Like Health and Human Services, much of what these departments do is counterproductive.

The assertion that the United States spends too much money on foreign aid is not "populist bullcrap." Instead, that assertion is another strong statement of adherence to the intent of the original Constitution. If someone wants to practice charity towards foreign countries, that's his choice. Taking money by force as taxes are taken and just giving that money to non-Americans wrong. At times in our recent history, some extent of foreign aid has been a somewhat necessary evil, but the necessity doesn't change the evil.

Because the Department of State is a relatively small part of our country's overall spending, we can't get all of our spending cuts from that one place. We need to seek cuts everywhere. However, the notion that Defense should receive the first cuts is stupid.

Pablo said...


While I agree with you about some of the other agencies that you mentioned, I must correct you on some things. The State Department has just as much claim to the original intent of the Constitution as the Department of Defense (Department of War then). Unless of course you believe that George Washington shirked the Constitution when he helped to create the Department of State.