Yes, Americans are Fat. The US Military is Fatter.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska via Pexels
Photo by Karolina Grabowska via Pexels

“Military leaders are worried about the shrinking pool of young people who qualify for military service,” Gina Harkins reports at “More than 70% of young Americans remain unable to join the military due to obesity, education problems, or crime and drug records.”

Mission: Readiness, a group of retired military officers, wants the US Department of Defense to create an “advisory committee on military recruitment,” with a view toward getting the next generation in shape so that they’re qualified, as the old saying goes, to “travel to exotic, distant lands; meet exciting, unusual people; and kill them.”

I’ve got a better idea: Instead of trying to trim fat off America’s adolescents, trim fat off the US Armed Forces.

The US military employs nearly 1.4 million active duty personnel and about 850,000 reservists.

The latest National Defense Authorization Act — vetoed by President Trump but looking likely as I write this to be passed over his objection — calls for $740 billion ($2,300 for every man, woman, and child in the country) in theoretically “defense”-related spending next year.

The US, which is separated by oceans from all credible potential enemies and hasn’t fought anything resembling a defensive war in 75 years, boasts the third largest (after India and China, far more populous countries with real adversaries on their borders), and far and away the most expensive, military apparatus on Earth.

While the US defense budget and the armed forces’ staffing levels could probably be cut by 90% without significantly degrading actual national defense capabilities, I understand the impulse to moderation.

So how about a 50% cut in military spending and active duty troop levels over five years, with an upward bump in reservist numbers to a full million?

That would leave the US with 700,000 active duty personnel (still the world’s fifth largest military), and still the world’s number one military big spender (about twice as much as China, three times as much as Saudi Arabia, and nearly five times as much as Russia or India).

With 2 million Americans reaching military age each year and some veterans re-enlisting, the Pentagon would have little problem finding the skinny, literate, non-criminal people it needs to fill its ranks.

Yes, some US arms manufacturers would take big hits to their lavish corporate welfare paychecks, but they could retool — every American taxpayer would be better off by about $1,250, meaning fatter markets for products that don’t kill people.

It’s time to put the Pentagon on a diet.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Why Not Take Congressional Proxy Voting All the Way?

US Capitol (via Pexels, CC0 License)

The Hill reports that US House Republicans, who made a show earlier this year of opposing remote and proxy voting in Congress, are warming to the latter practice.

US Representative Paul Mitchell (R-MI) gave his proxy to US Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA)  in early December, declaring by tweet that “I will not risk my family’s health in order to vote on key items.”

Fast food cooks and grocery store cashiers don’t get to assign their work to proxies. They show up each day or lose their jobs, risking their health with every shift. Apparently Mitchell doesn’t consider his job as important as flipping burgers or bagging beer and bagels. But he still wants to collect that paycheck while someone else covers for him.

OK, fair enough. But if proxy voting is an acceptable practice for members of Congress, why not extend it to the selection of those members?

American politicians love to crow about the beauty of “our representative democracy.” That’s a fun fable from the get-go.

Not all Americans are allowed to vote for their supposed representatives.

Of those who are allowed to vote, it’s not unusual for less than half to actually  do so.

And once those who choose to vote have voted, a single plurality or majority winner, who seldom receives the votes of as many as 25% of his or her supposed constituents, claims to “represent” 100% of those constituents whether they like it or not.

And now, that winner can just farm out his or her “representation” duties to others with a proxy, then go play golf or sit at home and binge the new season of Amazon’s latest.

Why not allow each supposedly “represented” American to choose a proxy that sticks, instead of casting a “vote” that may or may not result in real representation?

Increase the size of the US House of Representatives to a maximum of 1,000 votes. That’s votes, not members. Passage of a bill requires 501 votes (a majority). Overriding a veto requires 667 votes (2/3).

Based on current population as calculated on some kind of schedule (every two years, perhaps), any constitutionally qualified candidate who holds the proxies of at least 1/1000th of the population becomes a member of the House with at least one of those thousand votes. If the candidate receives more proxies than the required 1/1000th minimum, his or her vote is weighted accordingly.

Constituents can withdraw or re-assign their proxies on the first of each month. Constituents who choose not to assign their proxies at all are “represented” as an absence of votes on the House floor. It takes 501 votes to pass a bill. If there are only enough assigned proxies to empower 500 votes, nothing can be passed.

It would take a constitutional amendment, and getting 2/3 of both Houses of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures to give up Congress’s fake “representation” claims in favor of real representation is a long shot. But if proxy voting is good enough for our “representatives,” it’s good enough for the rest of us too.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Instead of Prosecuting Trump, Give Him the OJ Treatment

Hundreds (RGBStock)

Since well before Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, there’s been talk of how outgoing president Donald Trump might be criminally prosecuted at the state or federal level for any of dozens of alleged crimes once he leaves office.

Prosecutors in New York seem intent on bringing The Donald down one way or another, but at the federal level Trump-haters can probably expect little joy. Presidents don’t like the idea of prosecuting their predecessors, lest they themselves start, and get caught on, a  never-ending “he’s out, let’s get him!” merry-go-round.

But there’s another way.

Remember OJ Simpson? The former football star was acquitted of the 1994 murders of his former wife and her friend Ron Goldman. But Goldman’s family filed a wrongful death suit, won a civil judgment for $33.5 million, and have spent the last quarter century confiscating Simpson’s assets and income to satisfy that judgment.

The Goldmans won their case on a “preponderance of evidence” standard rather than “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In Trump’s case, there is no reasonable doubt: He’s on the hook for billions.

Article I, Section 9 of the US Constitution mandates that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”

In February 2019, Trump illegally and unconstitutionally attempted to misappropriate $6.6 billion for construction of his “border wall.” About a third of the money turned out to have already been spent for its lawful purpose, but he got away with at least $4 billion in stolen funds.

Since then, the matter has circulated in the courts, with lower federal courts taking due notice of the theft, but the US Supreme Court dismissing the suits for standing (according to SCOTUS, Congress has no recourse when presidents seize its lawful powers for themselves).

But the case is open-and-shut. He did it right there in the open, without even trying to hide it. There’s no doubt whatsoever that it was unconstitutional. And since it was not a legitimate presidential power there can’t be any “sovereign immunity” claim. The absence of such a claim also dispels any future argument from Trump’s defenders that the case is moot once he’s left office.

Donald Trump owes the US Department of the Treasury $4 billion. It should sue, get a civil judgment in its favor, and move swiftly to collect.

Trump almost certainly doesn’t have $4 billion in cash lying around, and his actual net worth may be negative. After confiscating and auctioning his assets — hotels, apartment buildings, golf courses,  pretty much everything except a single residence, a family vehicle, and personal effects such as clothing — Treasury may have to split the proceeds with his other creditors.

But he also has known and prospective future income, including but not limited to his presidential pension, speaking fees, book advances and royalties, etc.

The US poverty level for a family of three (Donald, Melania, and Barron) is $21,300 per year, so let him keep that much at least. After all, we’re not monsters. The rest goes toward repaying the money he stole.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.