Last year, as part of the fight over the debt limit, Congress created a “super-committee” that was designed to produce at least $1.2 trillion of “deficit reduction.”
The statists saw this super-committee as a vehicle to seduce Republicans into a tax hike. They knew that some GOPers are perpetually gullible and would be susceptible to the siren song of a “balanced approach” – even though that inevitably means higher taxes and never-fulfilled promises of future spending restraint.
But they also had a back-up plan. They got Republicans to agree that there would be automatic spending cuts – known as sequestration – if the super-committee failed to produce an agreement. And they convinced GOPers that half of these automatic cuts would come from the defense budget, even though military spending is only about one-fourth of total federal spending.
The left figured that the threat of a military sequester would scare some pro-defense GOPers into supporting a tax hike. Maybe not as part of the super-committee deliberations, but perhaps as we got closer to January 1, 2013, which is when the sequester was scheduled to take effect.
Well, the super-committee thankfully didn’t reach an agreement because not enough Republicans were foolish enough to support a tax hike. But now the left’s back-up plan is being implemented. Senator Harry Reid, supported by the White House, is saying that the sequester will go into effect unless GOPers surrender to a tax hike. Here’s some of what the Associated Press reported.
President Barack Obama’s top Democratic ally in the Senate said Wednesday that he won’t block much-feared automatic spending cuts to the Pentagon and Medicare providers from taking effect unless Republicans show more flexibility on cutting the budget deficit. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that $110 billion in automatic cuts coming due in January were designed to force both Republicans and Democrats to bargain over a “balanced approach” — including tax increases… The automatic cuts, known as a sequester, are the result of the failure of a deficit “supercommittee” to reach agreement last year. “Republicans refused to be reasonable. They refused to raise even a penny of new revenue, or ask millionaires to contribute their fair share to help reduce our deficit and our debt,” Reid said. “It is their intransigence — their refusal to compromise — that leaves us facing the threat of the sequester, and its difficult but balanced cuts.” Republicans controlling the House are seeking to undo the automatic cuts by substituting cuts to domestic programs like food aid, Obama’s health care law and social services like Meals on Wheels. …The White House proposed lifting the automatic cuts in its February budget, which called for tax increases on wealthier people and closing numerous tax breaks enjoyed by corporations. Even as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned the sequester would lead to a “hollowed out” military, White House officials have taken a hard line against incremental efforts to switch off the cuts.
So we are facing a big game of chicken. Democrats are holding the defense budget hostage and telling Republicans they have to raise taxes.
GOPers should tell them to go jump in a lake. A defense sequester would not be the end of the world. Far from it.
- The defense budget will still climb by about $100 billion over the next 10 years if there is a sequester. The “cuts” are mostly just reductions in previously scheduled increases.
- The United States currently accounts for about 45 percent of global military spending, and various allies add up to about half of all remaining military spending, so there is no danger to national security.
- There is plenty of waste in the military budget.
- George Will has explained that the defense budget could be pruned, “In 2017, defense spending would still be more than that of the next 10 countries combined. Do Republicans think it is premature to withdraw as many as 7,000 troops from Europe two decades after the Soviet Union’s death? About 73,000 will remain, most of them in prosperous, pacific, largely unarmed and utterly unthreatened Germany. Why do so many remain?”
All that being said, I’m very sympathetic to Republicans who are seeking to replace some of the defense savings by trimming the growth of domestic programs.
After all, national defense is one of the few legitimate functions of the federal government. So even if the defense budget is bloated and the U.S. is wasting money on nation building, why not focus first on reducing and eliminating domestic programs that shouldn’t exist?
But even if you don’t care about the Constitution and enumerated powers, it certainly doesn’t seem right to make one-fourth of the budget swallow one-half of the savings. Why not make the sequester apply equally to all parts of the budget?
Those are good questions, but they’re not relevant in the hard-ball world of Washington politics. The real issue is what Republicans will do if (and when) Democrats don’t go along with the GOP plan. Will they then surrender to a tax hike?
That would be an unmitigated disaster. If the left knows that Republicans can be bullied into tax hikes by holding the defense budget hostage, then a tax hike today would simply be a down payment. Every time the statists want more money to feed a bloated welfare state, they’ll simply tell GOPers that the only alternative is “deep defense cuts.”
Republicans have a reputation for being the “stupid party.” I guess we’ll find out for sure if they allow themselves to get maneuvered into a tax hike. The first of many, by the way.