I think one of the central tenets of progressivism is that the United States government spends too much on the military. This isn’t necessarily a critique of having the largest, best equipped military in the world, nor is it at all a criticism of how much soldiers are payed or how veteran’s are cared for. Some progressives would like to see America start rolling back our forward-leaning foreign military basing strategy. Others are even more demanding in their desire to see a demilitarization of our foreign policy. Opinions on the left vary, but one thing that is consistent is a suspicion that when it comes time to make hard decisions on our long-term structural budget deficits that people’s Social Security and Medicare deficits will be cut, while the Pentagon’s budget will go untouched. Part of the progressive frustration with the health care debate is that we spend so much more on the military than other countries and then are told that we can’t afford the kind of universal systems of health care enjoyed by every other industrialized nation. Progressives don’t want deficit spending except as a scientifically applied short-term stimulus. With an ever diminishing discretionary budget, the last thing we need is more debt to service that is wasted money.
So, it’s understandable that Obama is announcing some serious efforts to rein in the budget, and it’s good politics at a time that we’re raising the debt ceiling. And it’s bad politics to announce cutting military spending on a day that we’ve launched a major offensive in Afghanistan. I understand that. But the military’s budget absolutely has to be part of the conversation for any commission that looks at our budget problems, and our wars in Asia should not be exempt from PAYGO.