Trump's "Hard Power" Budget


America's military is one of its most respected and cherished societal institutions, and military strength is widely considered of paramount importance toward maintaining America's identity in the world. A whopping 68% of Americans feel that they have the world's most powerful military and 41% have a "great deal" of confidence in the military, making it more trusted than almost any other part of the United States government. The United States military is a significant factor in American social mobility, and has often led the nation in major cultural breakthroughs such as desegregation. It is one of the few sacred cows of American politics, and no American politician can survive if he or she is believed to be insufficiently supportive of "the troops." The military is a glowing exception to the skepticism of federal bureaucracy and spending shown by most conservatives, and this is illustrated by Trump's ambitions to increase its funding.


Interestingly, Trump differentiated himself from the Republican field by daring to criticize American military adventurism and the interventionist foreign policy they had supported for years. Trump proudly ran on the fact that he had opposed the Iraq War, and he promised to make American stronger by showing restraint in the international sphere. In addition, his rhetoric frequently surrounded rebuilding an America that he felt had lost its way. Trump's proposed budget, however, runs directly contrary to the idea of putting "America First." Even other hardcore conservatives are showing distress at the potential effects that these cuts might have on their constituents, seeing the cuts as "harmful and arbitrary" without providing meaningful reform.

America's enormous military budget has been a matter of concern in recent years, as the American military is already, by far, the most expensive and far-reaching military presence in the history of the world. Virtually no part of the world is considered outside of its sphere of influence, and Americans are committed militarily all over the world in the service of maintaining the present international balance of power. However, huge amounts of military funding are poured into unproductive uses such as obsolete technologies, redundant desk jobs and excess expenses arising from its global footprint. Regardless of one's opinion about the need for a strong national defense, America's military has grown vastly oversized and needs to be analyzed for what it is, a hugely wasteful government bureaucracy that needs to be reigned in.

Trump's budget eliminates funding for many of the more benign federal policies in favor of continually expanding the largest federal bureaucracy of them all. The U.S. Department of Defense is the world's largest employer, with roughly 3.4 million employees on its payroll. Despite this colossal size, the United States military would not be capable of fighting a major two-front war (a fairly standard benchmark for global U.S. military dominance). The military is inarguably a larger and more cumbersome bureaucracy that the National Endowment of the Arts, The Environmental Protection Agency or PBS. In his efforts to play political softball by providing more funding for defense and veterans, Trump now risks enraging those voters who gain certain tangible benefits from these government departments.

The cuts made by Trump's budget are fairly insignificant on a national scale, but some are consequential to various groups of marginalized people across the country. Much of this money trickles down to funding programs on the state and local level, and are not likely to be replaced. Given the military's shady accounting processes it will never be entirely clear what positive benefit given them additional money will bring. At the very least, cutting the funding of departments which ostensibly provide for services such as transportation, education or urban development will not make Trump any more popular. Of course, meaningful cuts need to be made in federal spending if the federal government is to continue to function as a viable state, but the time has come to put military spending on the table for dramatic reductions.

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