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Kind of provocative when you realize it shows that we’re spending well above the Cold War average, even without adding in the funding for the Iraq and Afghan wars.
There is a joke in modern American politics–the Republicans want a big defence force they don’t want to use anywhere and the Democrats want a small defence force they want to use everywhere. Implicit in the joke is that the Republicans like military spending and the Democrats don’t. Because the right is “strong” on defence and the left is “weak” on defence.
But is that correct? The 1991-92 Gulf War was the first time the US had got into a major war under a Republican Administration since the Spanish-American War of 1898 (it entered the Dynasts’ War, the Dictators’ War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War under Democratic Administrations). So, are the Democrats the warmongers?
Faced with a major external threat, a country (and its government) has three basic options; re-armanent, alliances or appeasement. They are not mutually exclusive, but they do involve different costs. In particular, re-armanent requires significantly increased spending, which means either increased taxes, increased borrowing or cuts in other expenditure or some combination thereof. If significantly increased regressive taxation is problematic–morally, politically and fiscally–then increased taxes will fall on the wealthy. (Estate taxes, for example, were relatively easy to collect and significantly driven by military expenditure [via].) Cutting other expenditure also tends to be politically problematic and is not likely to be sufficient. Borrowing simply defers the “who pays?” issue and, depending on the stance of monetary policy, can be inflationary, with inflation tending to be more problematic for income from capital than income from labour. Depending on exchange rate regime and other factors, increased borrowing and shifting production from civilian to military goods can also involve considerably increased state control over the economy.