Monday, March 16, 2015

In a Republican Congress, Defense Hawks vs. Budget Hawks

One of the complaints that Republicans long made about Congress when Democrats ran it is that the Congress never passed a budget blueprint. This document has no legal standing, but it is supposed to guide the committees that draw up the actual departmental budgets and minimize the last-minute haggling over gigantic omnibus spending bills that truly has been the hallmark of Congressional budgeting for decades.

But Republicans cannot agree among themselves. President Obama's budget proposal just ignores the legal limits on spending set by the Budget Control Act, aka the Sequester. His budget raises spending for both military and civilian programs well above sequester levels, inviting Congress to repeal the law. But many Republicans reject that, saying Congress must adhere to those limits and shrink the deficit. Republican defense hawks like John McCain and Lindsay Graham are saying that if they can't find Republican support for raising defense spending they will make a deal with Democrats to do so, even if that means agreeing to raising spending on non-defense programs as well.

I find myself feeling detached and ambivalent. I think the notion that defense spending "must" rise is appalling; a weird sort of logic that requires America to spend more on its military than all the world's other powerful nations combined. The Pentagon is saying that unless they get more money they will have to let tens  of thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen go. To that I say, if you're short on money how about you get rid of gigantic boondoggles like missile defense and the F-35?

On the other hand I think concern about the deficit is silly when millions of Americans are still out of work and wages are still stagnant, and I would very much like to see domestic spending rise. So I'm going to sit this one out and wait to see which of my dreams gets gutted.

I'm also going to make the bold prediction that Hillary will have no position on these questions.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

"To that I say, if you're short on money how about you get rid of gigantic boondoggles like missile defense and the F-35?"

Tens of thousands of laid off soldiers, sailors, and airmen is a heck of a lot less expensive politically than breaking deals with the military industrial complex. Government contracts for things like missile defense and the F-35 are simply far less about producing military technology and materials, and far more about ensuring continued political support by keeping the pork flowing.

Simply put, you lose far more political support by breaking faith with Lockheed Martin and the like than you ever could by laying off even a hundred thousand military jobs. The MIC corporations absolutely will change how they vote and who they fund if angered, but the grunts most likely won't - if they even vote at all.

Besides, the "tens of thousands" number is almost certainly inflated. The Pentagon knows it's bad politics to vote against "supporting the troops", so instead of saying ,"If you don't fund us we can't hand out giant and bloated pork contracts", they say ,"If you don't fund us, you'll be forcing us to lay off -The Troops-! How could you do that to America?!"