Without a doubt, you will hold up Reagan as a symbol of fiscal responsibility. Bush 41 lost on the economy and tax increases, Clinton balanced the budget by working with Republicans, and it’s common knowledge that Bush 43 grew the national budget to epic proportions in his time in office — most of it on Defense spending. And he did nothing to balance the budget — which, of course, you already know, as evidenced by your new House Budget Committee Chairmen’s comment on how the 2006 elections were a “repudiation of Republicans who strayed from their principles and got soft on spending and government.”
A closer look at Reagan’s economic maneuvers reveals the budget deficit in 1980 (his first year in office) was $1 trillion and in 1988 it was $3 trillion. Why? Tax cuts and increased spending. Defense spending. W. followed Reagan’s lead, naturally.
There are several areas in the 2011 Budget Proposal that can be trimmed, but it should seem obvious to anyone with half a mind that the greatest weight, the most repulsive percentage of any annual budget are the dollars allocated to the Department of Defense. According to the Congressional Budget Office, defense spending increased 9% annually from fiscal years 2000 to 2009.
I know it will be tough for you, a party which so loves the idea of a robust and virile military, but the fact of the matter is defense spending needs to be cut. Obama’s proposal is $928.5 billion in Defense spending –approximately 1/4 of the $3.8 trillion in total spending (and about 6% of U.S. GDP). Deficits, in Obama’s proposal, would be nearly $1.3 trillion.
Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) is your new Chairmen of the House Budget Committee, and will be in charge of helping you counter Obama’s proposal. Mr. Ryan, why not halve the $928.5 billion in defense dollars to $464.25 billion. It would trim the projected 2011 deficit by a 1/3 to around $840 billion. The U.S. would still account for 20% of military spending worldwide, with China our nearest competitor at around $100 billion. That’s manly enough, right? You’re outspending the upstart Chinese 4 to 1.
If this is done annually over a decade, the deficit will be cut. Combine that with other cuts in discretionary spending and entitlement programs, and the $464.25 billion in savings will grow. Several groups and individuals have made suggestions on how to cut the budget, and none really go after Defense spending as the suffocating budgetary virus that is in actuality. This would involve telling defense contractors like Raytheon, Boeing, etc., to go trim their own operations a little bit. Surely we could do without the advanced weapons systems that they create on a daily basis to better eviscerate the human body and reconfigure landscapes?
If your Congress and Obama’s administration were to halve Defense spending and take into consideration proposals already floating around, significant progress could be made. For instance, the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Brian Riedl thinks he can cut $343 billion annually. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s Bill Galston and Maya MacGuineas put their number at about $400 billion. The National Taxpapers Union believes $600 billion in annual cuts is a realistic number.
Some of those numbers already include cuts in defense expenditures, but not on the level I’m suggesting. Think of how much could be saved if you were to combine $464 billion in defense cuts with the other cuts these organizations are proposing, even if you only get half of what you want in negotiations with House and Senate Democrats.
Of course, I don’t expect you to listen to the modest proposal, as defense spending is its own weapon: to maintain dominance over the world by threat of force. The old Cold War mentality of outspending any perceived enemy in battlefield technology and advanced weapons systems that were formally the province of science fiction, through DARPA, NASA and all of the defense contractors.
You will not cut defense spending because you will find yourselves eliminated from Congress. You will not cut defense spending because you believe in the outmoded idea of the American superpower that imposes its will in global hegemony. You will not cut defense spending because the more fundamentalist Christian wing of your party sees the U.S. military as the great shining sword of Warrior Jesus.
You will not cut defense spending because you will not bite the hand that feeds you.
D. J. Pangburn