Are you safer now than you were seven years ago?
That question has not yet come up in the presidential primaries, but it's bound to be an issue in the November election, when the Democrats will be attacking the Reagan-Weinberger profligacy in defense spending, while the Republicans will be defending its peace-through-strength rationale. A just-released report from the Center For Defense Information, a dovish think tank, provides statistics that should figure in the coming debate. (Warning: no taxpayer with a delicate heart should read on.)
Since 1981, according to the report, we have spent $2 trillion on defense. That works out to $743 million per day, $31 million per hour, $516,000 per minute and almost $9,000 per second. We spent $736 billion defending Europe, $294 billion defending Asia, another $294 billion defending the Persian Gulf, $147 billion defending North America and $427 billion on the strategic nuclear forces that defend us against the Soviet Union's nuclear forces. While the number of men and women in the armed services has barely increased since 1981 (rising from 2,062,000 to 2,168,000), the Administration has boosted military research 50%, to $400 billion. It has spent $27 billion on the B-1 bomber, $16 billion on the MX missile, $19 billion on the Aegis cruiser, $13 billion on the Trident II missile and $13 billion on "Star Wars" research, to name a few of the weapons systems to which the average American household has contributed $21,000 over the past seven years.