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This article was originally published by Zbigniew Mazurak on October 10 and subsequently posted on ReaganGirl.com on October 15, 2012.
“Why should the Democrats believe the GOP will hold firm on taxes even if Obama loses? Do they expect the Dems to cave on taxes if Romney wins? They are dreaming if that is the case.
By acknowledging that they will be forced to accede to the Democrat’s demands on taxes – in any case – the Republicans have already lost the post-election battle. Rather than fighting for budget cuts and fiscal sanity, they are going to allow the Democrats to raise taxes and then let them take the extra cash to “invest” in their pet projects.
Deficit reduction? Maybe later the Dems will say. And the GOP will look like the chumps they are.”
What utter garbage!
Let me first say clearly that I oppose tax hikes and that I don’t believe it is wise for Republicans to say before the election (let alone before the bargaining has begun) what they will certainly give ground on. That’s not how they should negotiate. They should keep all of their cards closed until the negotiations begin AFTER the election.
But that being said, let’s be honest: until at least January 2013, the Democrats will control the Senate and the White House. And given current polling, as well as Mitt Romney’s and Todd Akin’s mistakes, it’s more likely than not that they’ll continue to control both the Senate and the Executive Branch after 2012. That being the case, any deficit reduction deal – or any deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, including the automatic tax hikes and the automatic defense cuts set to begin in January 2013 – will have to be acceptable as much for Democrats as for Republicans. It will have to be acceptable for both sides, not merely for Republicans. If anything, the Dems will have to get more out of it than Republicans if the former group wins the November elections.
And if you want to avoid the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, and thus to prevent massive tax hikes from becoming law, you will have to give some ground to the Democrats. Likewise, if you want to avoid the massive, destructive defense cuts set to begin in January 2013 (sequestration), you will have to give the Democrats something and compromise with them.
The US Constitution is designed in such way that if both parties control a branch of the federal government, or if control of the Congress is split between the two parties, then, as Glenn Kessler rightly noted last year – neither side can forever insist on nonnegotiable demands.
Which brings me to my last point: the need to avoid sequestration’s massive, destructive defense cuts at all costs. I have written on this need several times, so I’ll just repeat, in brief, the reasons for doing so, as I anticipate that if and when a deal to do so is reached, many libertarians and fiscal-only-conservatives will accuse the GOP of having a “sacred cow” and defending Big Government and “Pentagon spending” at all costs.
So here are, in brief, 6 good reasons to cancel sequestration, even if it means a compromise on taxes:
1) These defense cuts would be destructive and devastating to the military, as confirmed by the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, all of the Joint Chiefs, other generals and admirals, retired generals and admirals such as Adm. Edmund Giambastiani and LTG Steven Blum, many veterans’ associations, and independent experts from the Heritage Foundation and the AEI. Sequestration would make such deep cuts in defense spending (real cuts, not mere reductions of the growth rate) that there wouldn’t be nearly enough funding for the troops’ salaries and healthcare programs; for the maintenance of existing equipment and personnel; for the development and acquisition of new equipment; for training (tank miles, ship steaming days, flight hours, training ammunition, etc.), and operations – even flight patrols over the country. The entire ICBM fleet, the next generation bomber and fighter programs, and other crucial equipment programs would have to be killed, the Navy would have fewer than 230 ships, and the USMC would, according to its Assistant Commandant, be too weak to handle “even one major contingency.” For details, see here. So how deeply would base defense spending be cut? To $469 bn in FY2013, down from $535 bn today – and stay way below today’s levels for the foreseeable future, as even by FY2022 it would be barely at $493 bn. War spending would also be cut, as it is not exempt from sequestration.
2) Even under the First Tier of 2011′s debt ceiling deal, defense spending will be cut in real terms, albeit not as deeply as under sequestration. W/o sequestration, it still goes down to $521 bn in FY2013 and doesn’t return to today’s level until FY2019… assuming the Congress makes no further defense cuts. What do such cuts mean for the DOD? Among other things, this:
So cancelling sequestration does not mean letting defense off the hook, just cancelling the deepest and most destructive cuts.
3) Defense is not merely a legitimate government function, it is the HIGHEST Constitutional duty of the Federal Government. The government is Constitutionally OBLIGED to provide for a strong defense. See here, here, and here.
4) The DOD is the ONLY federal agency/program to have contributed anything meaningful to deficit reduction so far. Counting the 50 weapon program closures of 2009 and 2010, the Gates Efficiencies Initiative, and First Tier debt-ceiling-deal-mandated defense cuts (see above), it has already contributed $920 bn to deficit reduction over the next decade. Those who blather nonsense about defense being Republicans’ sacred cow should be forced to point to any other government agency/program that has contributed ANYTHING meaningful to deficit reduction to date. They can’t, because there isn’t any, and defense is not Republicans’ “sacred cow.”
5) Sequestration would disproportionately target defense while leaving entitlement programs almost unscathed. As data given in the Paul Ryan Budget Plan, in Table 1 of Appendix II (on page 96 of the full report), proves, defense would bear far more than half of the burden of the sequester’s budget cuts. The numbers, as the table states, would be as follows:
Category/FY13–-14–-15–-16–17—-18—19–-20—21—22–-TOTAL CUT OVER THE DECADE
Sequester—‐98 -‐93 -‐92 -‐91 -‐91 -‐90 -‐89 -‐88 -‐88 -‐90 -‐913
Defense.——55 -‐55 -‐55 -‐55 -‐55 -‐55 -‐55 -‐55 -‐55 -‐56 -‐551
Non-‐Def.—‐43 -‐38 -‐38 -‐37 -‐36 -‐36 -‐35 -‐33 -‐33 -‐34 -‐362
As these numbers prove, defense would bear far more than half of the spending cuts burden. In the first year (FY2013), it would be 56%; in FY2014, 59%; in FY2015, 59.78%; in FY2016, 60.43%; in FY2017, 60.43%; in FY2018, 61.11%; in FY2019, 61.79%; in FY2020, 62.5%; in FY2021, 62.5%; in FY2022, 61.11%.
In total, defense would be whacked by $551 bn over a decade, while nondefense discretionary spending would be cut by only $362 bn. Thus, the total amount of cuts would be $913 bn, and defense would bear 60.35% of that spending cut burden, i.e. the vast majority.
6) Last but certainly not least, sequestration is not needed to reduce the deficit. In fact, it would fail to make a meaningful difference, cutting only $98 bn out of a $1.3 trillion annual budget deficit. So even WITH sequestration, there will be a $1.202 trillion deficit every year. Even eliminating military spending entirely would not even HALVE the deficit, let alone eliminate it completely – and such puny savings would be eaten up in a few years by rapidly growing entitleent spending, as this Heritage graph proves.
As Paul Ryan’s, the Republican Study Committee’s, Sen. Lee’s, and Sen. Toomey’s budget plans prove, one DOES NOT have to deeply cut defense spending to balance the federal budget. It would be far wiser to follow one of these plans, and thus erase the deficit while funding defense adequately, rather than cut defense deeply, gut the military, and still fail to balance the budget.
So there are VERY good reasons to spare defense from sequestration. It is not a “Big Government” policy; it’s a conservative policy and the right thing to do.
The opinions expressed on Ziggy’s Defense Blog do not necessarily reflect those of ReaganGirl.com.