I don’t believe the Republicans really do want to reduce the size of the federal expenditure, but if they do, there’s a way. It’s the same way the socialists had to turn to when the United Kingdom finished the war broke in 1945.
Britain sold off its overseas investments to buy weapons and food and entered 1946 facing a world in which its overseas markets consisted of ruined people who could not afford to buy things; while at home, a wornout industrial plant was in no shape to produce efficiently and the residual effects of the Great Depression were unresolved.
In the ‘30s, Britain (under a coalition National government that was in spirit extremely conservative) had run austerity budget after austerity budget without much success in reviving its economy. The socialists who came into office in mid-1945 were disposed to spend money on domestic services and indisposed to spend money on an empire.
But even if the Tories had been in office, there was no money to spend overseas. The Bank of England went begging to the U.S. for a billion-pound loan to keep the currency from crashing.
As a result, Britain quit India, dumped its plans to support Greece against a communist rebellion and could not even fund a small force to keep policing Palestine.
Without an empire, it cut its military to prewar levels, which had been very low. There were aberrations. A useless battleship, HMS Vanguard, was completed, but generally the way Britain negotiated itself out of its fiscal crisis was to demilitarize. It took over a decade and was accomplished in part by relying on the United States to provide military muscle where needed.
The situation of the United States in 2013 is not nearly as critical as it was in Britain in 1946, but there is no question that some reduction of national expenditures would be helpful, along with a return to the kinds of tax rates (and concomitant infrastructure investment) that the U.S. charged during the period of its greatest prosperity.
You see, the Republicans understand nothing about public finance. Taxes are not a problem. Taxes are a solution. If you doubt that, try privatizing garbage collection and see where it gets you. (It gets you a lot of garbage dumped secretly on public property.)
So, no matter what else is done, if the Republicans want a smaller national expenditure, they need to make a large reduction in military spending.
A lot of that is locked in. By starting two wars, they obligated themselves to provide veterans benefits to men and women in their 20s and 30s who will live into their 70s and 80s. The Republicans have shown a strong disinclination to pay that bill, but it will get paid, nevertheless.
Republicans love to buy shiny toys, especially if they go boom. They are going to have to cut that out.
Here are some realistic cuts that could be and will eventually have to be made:
Zero out the Marine Corps.
Cut 80 or 90% of the ballistic missile submarine fleet.
Reduce the air force bombers, perhaps to just B2s. Rein in the army’s air force, which is about the same size as the Air Force’s air force.
There are some real problems with reducing the military budget. The biggest is that the force we have is disastrously short of infantry, which is (taking into account veterans’ benefits) a very expensive kind of force. The price we paid for not having any infantry in Iraq was that we lost that war.
Assuming we are going to use our military in the future, the infantry (always and still 'the "queen of battle") needs to be much larger.
If you read the papers, you know that the Republicans want to spend more money, not less, on armies, navies and air forces.
Not going to happen.