Will conservatives help cut Federal spending?

Summary:  Will the people on the right, aflame with deficit-cutting fervor, cut the 25 – 30%  of the government’s budget spent on defense (DoD, nukes, vets, pensions, foreign intelligence)?  Without doing so it’s unlikely the budget can be balanced, esp when interest rates normalize (easily doubling interest costs to 12% of the budget).   Some say it’s on the table, but I remain skeptical.  Too many of today’s Republicans share nothing but the party name with Eisenhower’s Republicans.


Bruce Barlett reports some promising news:  “Focus on National Security“, The Fiscal Times, 15 June 2010 — Opening:

“Concerns about budget deficits and rising debt levels are leading to fractures in the heretofore unified conservative support for ever-higher defense spending. At least a few Republicans are now openly suggesting significant cuts in the defense budget, raising concerns among conservatives primarily concerned about national security. I believe that ultimately national security conservatives will be forced to choose between cuts in the defense budget and tax increases to reduce deficits.”

He cites as evidence the following:

  • “On June 7, The Politico reported that increasing numbers of conservative Republicans and Tea Party members are pressing for cuts in defense spending.”
  • “On May 18, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, perhaps the most conservative member of the Senate, sent a 10-page letter to the budget commission that is surprisingly critical of defense spending.”

But Bartlett also cites a paper which might more accurately represent conservative thinking — and conservative priorities:  “US Defense Spending: The Mismatch between Plans and Resources“, Mackenzie Eaglen, Heritage Foundation, 7 June 2010.  The abstract tells the story:

President Barack Obama’s defense budget request perpetuates a long-standing pattern of underfunding defense needs. Defense spending is already near historic lows, and the Administration’s budget would reduce it to levels unprecedented during wartime. Furthermore, Congress appears poised to repeat the past mistake of promptly disarming after major combat operations subside.

Instead, Congress should maintain current levels of defense spending to allow the military to reset and recapitalize. Congress needs to control entitlement growth, domestic spending, and public debt, which are beginning to threaten national security. Congress also needs to reform military compensation to ease strains within the defense budget.

Eaglen measures military spending as a fraction of our total economy — not in dollars (just as liberals do with education), and not relative to actual threats.  He believes spending must rise forever, irrespective if our threat is a superpower or some guys in caves.  This is not the thinking of reasonable people, and probably not of people who will consider compromises on this issue.

For a look at one of Eaglen’s recommendations see Do we overpay the members of our armed services?

For more information

  1. Nightmare Budget Scenario at the Pentagon“, Winslow Wheeler, Huffington Post, 10 June 2010 — “An extremely broad right-left coalition may be forming to bring real change to the Pentagon. Such change is not coming otherwise.”
  2. See this website for excellent charts and numbers about government spending (all levels) in America
  3. Center for Defense Information

Other posts about our “defense” spending



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