America on Defense
In his fifth Philippic—an invective aimed at rival Marc Antony in January 43 b.c.e.—the Roman statesman Cicero famously lamented the growing size of the subversive Antony’s war chest. He then reminded his audience of senators that nervi belli pecunia infinita: “the sinews of war are endless money.” Cicero knew what he was talking about. Much of America’s success in its wars of the 20th century—and its concurrent ability to deter conflicts—has rested on the nearly “endless” supply of cash created by the vast U.S. economy.
No more. Since 2008 the United States has been running serial annual budget deficits of over $1 trillion. In the last four years alone, the Obama administration has added almost $5 trillion to the national debt, which now is on its way to an aggregate of $17 trillion. As the limits of borrowing become clear even to devoted Keynesians, massive budget cuts across the board loom for the foreseeable future. Whereas Ronald Reagan was caricatured for “starving the beast”—attempting to cut taxes to reduce federal expenditure for unnecessary programs—Barack Obama seems intent on “gorging the beast”: ensuring that the rate of increase in domestic spending is so huge that either tax hikes or defense cuts, or both, become inevitable.
About the Author
Victor Davis Hanson, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, is the author of many books, including, most recently, his first novel, The End of Sparta.