Friday, April 06, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #51 - Part 2

Military spending and the budget
All the economic talk now is about the new, which actually isn't new but is new for this yea, budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan - or Paul Rantin' as I call him. So we've got the Rantin' budget. It's been passed by the House but it's going to die in the Senate but that's hardly the point now. It proposes cuts in food assistance, Medicaid, housing, jobs programs, job training, education, environmental protection, cuts across the board, everything getting cut and slashed. It proposes replacing Medicare with a voucher system. And despite the cuts, it would increase total deficit by $4 trillion because of the massive tax cuts for the rich he wants.

The other day, Barack Obama called this budget "social Darwinism" - which is actually a pretty good description of it, I have to say. And I would be very happy with the way President Hopey-Changey denounced this budget if I really had any faith that he was actually going to do anything about it. But the truth is, I don't. Because his argument is not against cutting social programs, it's how much you cut and just where. He has acknowledged that he wants to cut Social Security, he wants to cut Medicare, that he wanted that to be part of any program to balance the budget. He said this over and over again. So he doesn't disagree with all these cuts, just where and how much.

Rantin' had to walk something back the other day: He suggested in considering the military budget that the generals weren't being honest in what they were saying about the budget. He had to walk that back real quick. Rantin' said that what he really meant was that Obama had announced that there was going to be $500 billion in cuts over 10 years - it was actually $487 billion, but close enough - and that the Pentagon had to form the strategy meet that figure. He said it should have been the other way around. That is, the Pentagon, unlike any other agency of the federal government, should have been able to say "this is what we want and you are going to have to come up with however much money it's going to take to do that."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch "Fishface" McConnell said "We're going to make sure that America still is number one in the world in defense, and we're not sure that with these cuts we're going to be able to do that, to stay number one." So they want to be number one in defense. Number one in anything else? Not so much. Being number one in clean air and clean water? Not important. Being number one in access to health care? Not important. Being number one in the lowest rates of poverty or hunger? Not important. Being number one in the ability to kill people? That's what's important.

Buck McKeon chairs the House Armed Services Committee. He was in California recently talking to a group of Northrop Grumman workers and he said "I implore you, no, I beg you, to stop" cuts in military spending from happening.

Because yeah, they want to cut spending, but you can't cut military spending. Everything else gets cut, but not the military, no way.

The problem is, it's not just the GOPpers. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said recently it would be "irresponsible" to cut any more than already agreed to, that $487 billion over 10 years.

This even though the entire defense program is rife with waste, so much so that if it was a civilian program, there would be demands it be shut down. At his hearing on his nomination to be head of acquisition for the Defense Department, Frank Kendall said "I am not confident any defense program will not have cost overruns." That is, you can be confident that they probably will. In fact, the Senate Armed Services Committee says that "nearly half" of all Pentagon weapons systems go over budget by at least 15 percent.

We spend more on defense than on anything else. More than on Social Security, more than on Medicare. For FY 2013, the budget that's now being worked on, the budget calls for $851 billion for security spending. "Security spending" is for all of it; in includes the Department of Defense as well as other "security" areas such as the part of the Energy Department budget that relates to nuclear weapons.

For the DoD base budget for FY 2013, Obama has requested $525 billion. That is a cut from the year before of about $5 billion - a cut of less than one percent. And in fact in the year after, in FY 2014, the Pentagon budget is supposed to go up $533 billion.

Wait - I thought we we supposed to be cutting spending. How come it's going up? This is something important to understand: When these people talk about "cuts" in military spending, they don't mean cuts, they mean smaller increases. That it won't go up as much as had been previously predicted. That's what they mean by "cuts."
How big is our military budget? How big is our budget compared to other nations of the world? According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute - this is an internationally-respected outfit that keeps track of these kinds of things - the United States alone accounts for 43% of all the military spending in the entire world. The UK, China, Russia, and France together account for a little over 18%. We account for two and a-half times as much military spending as they do combined.

This is insane. It really is. The numbers are all out of proportion with any rational notion of defense. And there are ways to cut military spending that do no affect any rational notion of military or security defense. In fact, in 2010, there were four different proposals of how you can cut military spending.

There was one by the Sustainable Defense Task Force, organized by Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul, which outlined a plan to cut $960 billion by 2020.

The libertarian Cato Institute had a proposal for $1.2 trillion in cuts over ten years.

The centrist Bipartisan Policy Center a proposed plan that would save $1.1 trillion over the coming decade.

And Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the co-chairs of so-called National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, also known as the Cat Food Commission, suggested in their co-chair report cuts that could amount to $650 billion to $1 trillion over those same ten years.

There are ways, there are solid, well-thought out ways, as to how we can cut the military budget without affecting any rational notion of security. But the right wing just won't listen to them - and neither will a lot of supposed moderates and liberals.


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