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More National Security & Less Debt

For the past decade, 1 in 3 applicants to join the military have been rejected due to obesity and other health issues—plus another 1+ in 3 applicants have been ruled out for a combination of reasons including health. 

Now, only 23% of applicants qualify for admission.

Qualified vs non-qualified graphic

According to a letter from almost 800 retired generals & admirals to the Secretary of Defense in 2020, these and other trends:

“…Pose a significant threat to the future of the all-volunteer force…
Critical for our future strength and national security.”

(Of course, we all know that Congress will never start supplementing a future shrinking volunteer military force by reinstituting the draft…(don’t we?!?)   Or perhaps we will start first by borrowing a page from the Wagner Group in Ukraine, and recruit prisoners by offering to commute their sentences…?)

Instead, for now at least, the military will continue to have to pay increasingly higher signing bonuses & salaries for the decreasing percent of Americans who qualify AND who wish to join. The military may also have to periodically lower recruitment standards—though this has backfired in the past.

Meanwhile, a recent Johns Hopkins study calculated that almost half of federal spending already goes to healthcare—up from under 5% in 1960. Over that same time frame, healthcare costs have increased from 5% of GDP to almost 18%. As government health care spending has gone up as a percent of the economy, at a time when no major party or political leader wants to raise taxes on the average American—the percentage spent on defense has inevitably gone down.

Health care has become the largest component of federal spending, now even exceeding Social Security—and double the spending on national defense. It is the fastest growing major area of the federal budget, and is driving the rapid growth in federal deficits and national debt.

And health care is typically the 2nd largest component of state government spending, too—after education (though in some states health spending, primarily Medicaid-related, now exceeds education).

Projected spending chart

Americans are spending over $4 trillion per year—about $12,000 per American—on health care. This is more than twice per capita what other countries spend.

Why is the government so involved in health care?  Some of the reasons include:

  • There is a substantial public interest in people being healthy and able to work.
  • Health care costs are extremely unpredictable for families, and can often be so high that they lead to bankruptcy.
  • When people retire, they cannot afford to cover their increasing health care costs.
  • There are millions of federal employees including the military, and former employees including veterans, and they have health benefits.
  • Lower-income families cannot afford to pay for their health care costs.
  • Health care costs have grown much faster than family incomes.

So the government role in health care continues to grow: Medicaid (“free” health care for low-income families, operating under AHCCCS, Medi-Cal & many other state-specific names), Medicare, the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), veterans benefits (“the VA”), military & other government employees, IRS employer tax breaks, etc. (Yes, private employer health insurance & benefits are also heavily subsidized by the government/taxpayers—through special tax deductions.)

Health care costs, which the government and taxpayers don’t pay for now, are being passed on to future generations—with high deficits and unprecedented levels of national debt.

High chronic-disease-driven deficits threaten military spending,
veterans benefits, education and other national priorities.

Federal Debt graphic

In addition, according to military leaders, fiscal experts, and others: that debt is itself becoming a growing risk to our security, too.  Ever-higher interest payments will severely limit future government investments in the military, infrastructure, education and other vital areas.

Speaking of our health and national security: did you see our oped with Heritage Foundation’s Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr (Ret.)?  Spoehr now heads Heritage’s Center for National Defense:

Washington Examiner screenshot

Counteracting stereotypes about conservative vs progressive perspectives on health care, education & public policy, this nonpartisan opinion piece shows the bipartisan potential of preventive education K-12. (The oped was published during the pandemic in the Washington, D.C. “conservative counterpart” to the Washington Post—the Washington Examiner.)

This article describes how our worsening health is literally a threat to national security.

Our inactivity- & unhealthy-nutrition-driven bad health

  • BOTH disqualifies many potential recruits for our all-volunteer military
  • AND undermines the federal budget with rapidly increasing health spending—yet that budget is the sole funding source for our national defense—and for the vast majority of veterans benefits.

There is significant potential bipartisan support for improving children’s health through schools.  But national advocacy is not sufficient to move the needle. While Michelle Obama raised awareness of children’s inactivity and unhealthy nutrition, and made some progress—state governments and local school boards control schools, not the federal government.

This is why we at Healthy Future US focus at the state and local levels (though with some “low-hanging-fruit” federal funding for K-12 preventive education via Medicaid waivers—which does not require Congressional action).

Americans’ health costs end up being shared, directly or indirectly, by all Americans. We are all in this together. And now we have a key part of the solution— through schools.

Healthy Students Healthy State gets us there.

More info: More National Security & Less Debt