These days virtually every Republican is a “conservative,” with each one claiming that they are dedicated to cutting spending, balancing budgets, reducing debts, and limiting government. Most of them are liars. The failure of the Deficit Supercommittee last week was the latest reminder of this.
The Supercommittee was supposed to figure out where it could cut $120 billion annually for 10 years, equaling $1.2 trillion in overall cuts. If not, the result was supposed to be $1.2 trillion in “automatic cuts” over the next decade, with about $600 billion of that coming from the defense budget. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said such cuts would be “devastating” to our military, and most Republicans agreed with Panetta, taking the line that President Barack Obama was “weakening” our military.
When conservative Republicans say they want to cut the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, or anything else, liberal Democrats shriek that Republicans will “devastate” education, energy, and basically any other part of our government that does not remain 100 percent intact. Conservatives rightly recognize this as a liberal scare tactic to prevent anyone from downsizing a federal government that so desperately needs it. Liberals love big government and will tell any lie to protect it; conservatives hate big government and will cut it every opportunity they get. This has long been the traditional divide in American politics, at least in perception.
I say “perception” because when it comes to Pentagon spending, too many Republicans behave exactly like liberal Democrats. For starters, who doesn’t think our military could save more taxpayer dollars than it currently does? We spend more now than at any time since World War II and almost more on defense than every other nation combined. Sen. Tom Coburn has suggested that if we are going to start cutting, the Pentagon is the most logical place to start precisely because it is the most wasteful.
But even more important, these “devastating” automatic cuts aren’t even cuts at all. Or as Sen. Rand Paul explained on CNN the day the Supercommittee failed: “This may surprise some people, but there will be no cuts in military spending because we’re only cutting proposed increases. If we do nothing, military spending goes up 23 percent over 10 years. If we [make this cut], it will still go up 16 percent.” Paul is describing the tired liberal narrative: that if the proposed spending increases are in any way diminished, this constitutes a “cut.”
When Sen. Paul introduced a budget last year that would balance the budget in five years and reduce the debt by $4 trillion, his plan not only far exceeded any other Republican proposal in cutting spending, but he was only able to arrive at such a large number by including Pentagon reductions. With the exception of support from Sen. Jim DeMint, Sen. Mike Lee, and five other Republicans, Paul’s proposal failed in the Senate 7-90. Why were Republicans overwhelmingly against Paul’s plan? Don’t they agree with Paul, DeMint, and Lee that we have to cut spending and balance the budget? What gives? Sen. Lindsey Graham explained his party’s consensus on the matter: “I’m not going to vote for any budget that reduces defense spending by over 40 percent.”
Paul’s plan would only cut defense spending by 6 percent, so where did Graham get “40 percent?” You guessed it — decreases in increased spending redefined as “cuts.”
In Graham’s defense, his view on not cutting Pentagon spending — or any other increases in military spending — continues to be the dominant one in the Republican Party. The problem here is there’s simply no way to actually do what every member of the GOP loves to talk about — limiting government, balancing budgets, cutting waste — without substantively reducing our overall so-called national security budget. After entitlements, it is the second largest part of our budget. You could feasibly gut the entire entitlement system and not touch Pentagon spending, but what politician is going to tell America’s seniors they must do without so that we can continue to wage war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and God-knows-where-else?
As I write this, Sen. Graham is drafting legislation to “protect our military” from the “devastating” automatic “cuts” supposedly coming down the pike due to the Supercommittee’s failure.
If my fellow conservatives want to know why the GOP has been a complete failure in its ability to cut government spending, look at South Carolina’s own Lindsey Graham. And then take a look at the rest of the Republican Party that continues to agree with him.
Jack Hunter is the official campaign blogger for GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, and he co-wrote Rand Paul’s The Tea Party Goes to Washington. You can hear Southern Avenger commentaries on The Morning Buzz with Richard Todd on 1250 WTMA. For more commentary from Jack, as well as videos, visit his website, southernavenger.com.