I remember when most people, including me, thought that the Republican Party was so in bed with the defense industry that they would never allow sequestration to take place. It turned out that somehow the Tea Party virus was more powerful than Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumann, and General Dynamics combined.
However, the military-industrial complex is just a tad savvier than Louie Gohmert and Steve King, so they’ve managed to assure that their man-servants are serving as chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees. And it’s from those lofty perches that Rep. Mac Thornberry and John McCain currently bleat out their impotent rage at the budget hawks in their own deranged party. It’s almost hilarious, except this is our country.
McCain and Thornberry directed their message to budget hawks in their own party who are unwilling to overturn the $1 trillion in cuts to the defense budget over 10 years known as “sequestration,” which was imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) after lawmakers failed to agree on tax and spending reform.
Overturning the cuts would take an act by a Republican-controlled Congress, but there are many within the Republican Party who see sequestration as a valuable asset in their drive to cut government spending.
“Heaping nearly $1 trillion in cuts on the U.S. military while ignoring entitlements is not conservative fiscal policy and will not solve the problems of deficits and debt,” the chairmen wrote.
Rather, the true drivers of debt are entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare — not defense spending, they wrote, adding that it is only 16 percent of federal spending and the lowest share since before World War II.
“There is nothing conservative or Republican about pretending that Washington can balance the budget by cutting defense spending. The new Republican majorities in Congress should not allow such reckless policy,” they added.
“How can Republicans — the party of Ronald Reagan and ‘peace through strength’ — possibly justify a lower defense budget than that of President Obama?” they asked.
Under sequestration, the 2016 defense budget will be $500 billion. The White House has submitted a defense budget for $535 billion. McCain and Thornberry went further, arguing it should be $577 billion — the level planned before sequestration hit.
If the cuts aren’t relieved by Oct. 1 or lawmakers don’t find areas in the defense budget to cut, $35 billion would indiscriminately be cut from the budget by slashing an equal percentage from every Pentagon program.
McCain and Thornberry — two advocates of acquisition reform — acknowledged there is waste in the Pentagon’s budget, but said “sequestration does not target Pentagon waste.”
I’m hoping you can see the jujitsu that President Obama has pulled off here. If we went back to 2007 when he first emerged as a candidate and he was promising to convince the Republicans to lowball him on defense spending, well, we would have thought he was promising us rainbows and unicorns. “Pure bullshit.” “Never happen,” we would have said.
“Yeah, I will get the Republicans to force a $77 billion cut in my own scaled back Pentagon budget, and I won’t give them anything in return for it. They’ll just do it. In fact, I’ll have to beg them for the money I think we really need.”
Yeah, I know I’m being a little too cute here, but the Republican turnabout has been stunning. And it’s driving Old Man McCain absolutely bonkers. He’s literally losing the shit he’s already lost six times already. He’s close to having no more shits to lose.
Sequestration happened because this madness wasn’t supposed to be possible, so it’s not really fair to give the president credit for it. But it will be part of his record. He will be able to say that the Republicans (“the party of Ronald Reagan and ‘peace through strength'”) gave him lower defense budgets than he requested. He will be able to say that he went a long way toward balancing the budget “by cutting defense spending.” He’ll be able to quote McCain arguing that under his presidency the defense budget took up the “the lowest share since before World War Two.”
I know the whole situation is nuts. This isn’t any way to do budgeting for the Pentagon. It’s insane and reckless of Congressional Republicans to behave like this.
But on an overall dollar amount?
No progressive candidate would have been believed if they promised this kind of result.