Curtailing Deficits without Touching Defense Spending is Silly
by Gary Therkildsen*, 9/23/2010
In their newly released, talking-point-heavy "Pledge to America," House Republicans say they are offering "a plan to stop out-of-control spending and reduce the size of government" if voters put them back in charge in November. One area of government the plan doesn't call for reducing, however, is the Department of Defense (DOD). In fact, the new conservative governing proposal explicitly exempts the DOD budget from their proposed cuts to bring federal spending back to "pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels."
This will not only entail massive cuts to other areas of discretionary spending, but it completely leaves the task of reforming a bloated DOD budget that, as Gordon Adams at Capital Gains and Games puts it, "has run rampant over the past decade, spurred by two invasions and occupations."
To the first issue, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Pledge's call for cuts to non-security discretionary spending, which mirrors a recent proposal by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), would reduce many government programs by 21 percent. These cuts would have drastic effects on basic services like education and transportation, and would likely cripple vital public protections like food and water safety.
As OMB Watch Executive Director Gary Bass wrote this afternoon in the Huffington Post:
Paired with their deficit-bloating tax cut ideas are massive spending cuts intended to "starve the beast" or "drown government in a bathtub." While this manifesto's rhetoric may cater to the far right, it certainly does not provide a meaningful solution to long-term structural deficits.
Instead, they focus on the smallest part of the budget problem - discretionary spending. There are numerous promises to cut non-defense spending, freeze non-security hires in the government, and sunset government programs. Showing some compassion (or reaction to poll-tested warnings), they may not cut programs serving "seniors, veterans, and our troops," but there are no protections for others hit hard by the economy, such as those without jobs.
On the second issue, defending the inertial growth of the defense budget as providing "our troops with the resources they need" is ridiculous. Even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has recently acknowledged that there is at least $100 billion worth of savings possible over the next five years. While he plans to plow those savings right back into the department, it's at least a start.
Moreover, as Adams points out, the defense budget needs scrutiny because we as a country need to decide what and how much we want our military to do in the future. Leaving it alone to further grow and morph in the name of providing a robust defense is just scary.
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