Eisenhower warned us, but Republicans didn’t listen.
Imagine for a moment that a given Department was set to have its ten-year spending increase lowered from 18% growth to 10% growth. In Washington this is called a spending “cut,” even though the Department’s budget increases by 10%.
Some policymakers and politicians call these so-called cuts “draconian,” “calamitous,” and “devastating.” One calls it “self-castration.” Another says it will destroy the department. Yet another says the department may be unable to “overcome [the] dire consequences.” Keep in mind that some of these folks voted for the lowered spending growth they are now lamenting.
Care to guess members of which party these drama-laden complaints came from?
According to Veronique de Rugy, these comments came from Republicans, as well as a few members of the Obama administration.
And which Department are they lamenting? The Department of Defense, of course, and the lowered spending will occur through the sequestration process as part of the budget deal cut last year. Why Republicans agreed to a sequestration deal that consists of tax increases and spending cuts of which 80% come from the Defense Department, I have no idea. Worse, as de Rugy notes, the “cuts” are across-the-board, and Defense Department has no discretion over the reductions and cannot have them affect lower-priority missions. Yay GOP!
Many Republicans support the “cut cap and balance” plan. Many also oppose defense cuts. That is cognitive dissonance, because you cannot balance the budget without trimming the defense budget—a reality that will become even more acute as the baby boomers retire in greater numbers.
To make my point, let’s play a game of “balance the budget.” We need to cut the budget by 40% in order to balance, and we will assume that the Defense budget is sacrosanct, as is the interest expense (to do otherwise would be default).
First, we will cut all discretionary spending. That means closing the courts, national parks, FBI, border patrol, Coast Guard, Department of Education, Department of Education, State Department, etc., etc.
Next we will cut all mandatory spending. That means halting welfare, unemployment benefits, veterans benefits, housing aid, etc., etc.
Okay, now we’re up to 31% of the budget. We still have 9% to go, and we can’t touch defense. So let’s split the remaining cuts between Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid. Can you say “death panels?”
Next, consider that once you balance the budget, it will “un-balance” again the following year, because of rising health care costs, the baby boom retirement, a growing interest expense, and the implementation of ObamaCare. Unless you live in some bizarre parallel universe utterly divorced from reality, I think you can see that the Defense Department has to be on the chopping block like everything else, which is why Jim DeMint has encouraged conservative lawmakers to start moving in Ron Paul’s direction when it comes to our military spending.
And it only makes sense. De Rugy has calculated that the U.S. spends an astonishing 45% of the world’s military expenditures. We are spending more on defense than at any time since World War II. Much of it is protection of allies, such as Europe, Japan, and South Korea. It’s time for these nations to stand up and act like big boys and girls. I simply don’t buy the argument that European nations will immediately begin invading one another if we reduce our presence, or the Japan will return to empire building. But, if that is still the case, I agree with Donald Trump that we should send them a bill for our services.
So, what will Mitt Romney (D-Mass.) do if elected? He has promised to reverse Obama’s defense spending cuts, meaning he wants the defense budget to grow more than 18% over the next decade! He has also promised to reverse the Medicare cuts imposed as part of the effort to make ObamaCare “revenue neutral.” Admittedly these cuts haven’t materialized, but the CBO scores them as if the will. In other words, Romney (D-Mass.) wants to add $1-2 trillion to the deficit before he gets to work on reducing it!
De Rugy began her piece on Defense spending by citing our last conservative president, General Dwight D. Eisenhower:
During his 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned the American people that one of the greatest threats to freedom came not from enemies abroad but from “the conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry,” which over time would lose sight of defending the United States and become devoted only to its own perpetuation. “In the councils of government,” said the man who had commanded the Allied forces in Europe during World War II, “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
Ronald Reagan abandoned conservative values by embracing the military-industrial complex and radically expanding the warfare state. Prior to Reagan, Democrats started wars, and Republicans ended them. Now that has been reversed.
Now, as we stand at the brink of a debt crisis, there are some conservatives still clinging to the notion that we can afford to be the world’s policeman and engage in nation building around the globe. As I hope the exercise above demonstrated, we cannot. To say you want a balanced budget, or even low deficits, and to take defense cuts off the table is cognitive dissonance. We either begin reducing our military in an organized manner, or we will do it in panic mode when the day comes and we have to restructure our debt.
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