Why do Rep Ryan and the Republicans want to gut America’s military defenses?

Summary:  Ryan’s proposal means drastic reductions in spending on national defense.  Like most of the plan’s key details, it’s hidden in the shadows.  Like a magician, he distracts us with the right hand while left does the dirty work.

From The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise, by the Republican members of the House Budget Committee (Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-WI), April 2011 — Note this plan calls for higher spending as a per cent of GDP than their 2010 “A Roadmap for America’s Future“.  Perhaps by version #12 they’ll have a realistic forecast.

Let’s look at Ryan’s plan. 

Total Federal spending  (% GDP)
   1928…03.7%   (this is almost equivalent to “core” spending shown below, as there were few Federal social services)

Core Federal spending — spending excluding health care, social security, and interest (% GDP)
  actual  2010….12%
  plan     2022….06.0%
  plan     2030….05.2%
  plan     2040….04.2%   (core government spending equivalent to that of 1930)

Core government spending/gdp back to 1930’s levels!  List all the things we’d lose (I’ll bet not one in ten Americans could do so; such as almost all research spending — including medical).  Now see what this will mean for defense spending…

Defense spending (% GDP)
  2010…7%   (A rough estimate of $1T, including DoD, foreign intelligence, military pensions, and nukes; see CBS News and Christopher Hellman)

If we follow Ryan’s plan, core government spending in 2022 will be 6% of GDP.  How much of that is defense?  Today defense is almost 60% of core Federal spending.  If that’s still so in 2022, defense spending will be cut by roughly half from today’s level (as a percent of GDP, with pensions a far larger share of the defense budget).   And in 2040 it will be down by two-thirds, about 2.5% of GDP — far closer to 1930’s levels than today’s (for comparison, the size of the USMC was aprox 200 thousand strong during the 1930’s vs. 200 thousand today).

Will soldiers’ pay be held down (they’ll not be on food stamps, since at these spending levels there will not be food stamps)?  Perhaps DoD will buy model airplanes instead of drones.  Certainly the Navy will be much smaller. 

Perhaps Ryan wants China to replace us as global hegemon.  That’s appropriate, since the Republicans seem determined to let our infrastructure rot until we are a third world nation.

Perhaps he’s a peacnik.  

Perhaps his long-term plan is just dross to distract us while the Republicans reduce taxes right now on the rich and corporations.

More analysis of the Ryan plan

  1. CBO analysis of the Ryan Proposal, 5 April 2011
  2. Ryan Plan Specifies Spending Path That Would Nearly End Most of Government Other Than Social Security, Health Care, and Defense by 2050“, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 7 April 2011
  3. Ryan Budget Plan Produces Far Less Real Deficit Cutting than Reported“, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 8 April 2011
  4. The Do-Nothing Plan“, Annie Lowrey, Slate, 12 April 2011 — “How Congress can balance the budget in eight years by literally doing nothing. This is not a joke”
  5. Do-Nothing Congress as a Cure“, David Leonhardt, New York Times, 12 April 2011

Best summary of the Ryan plan:  Paul Krugman, blog of the New York Times, 12 April 2011:

Basically, the plan has five points — except that only two of those points are real, while the other three are fake.  The real points are:

1. Savage cuts in programs that help the needy, amounting to about $3 trillion over the next decade.
2. Huge tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, also amounting to about $3 trillion over the next decade.

The fake points are:

3. “Base broadening” that makes those tax cuts revenue neutral. Ryan has refused to name a single tax preference that he would, in fact, be willing to get rid of; all he and his party do is keep repeating “revenue-neutral” in the hope that people believe them.
4. Unspecified cuts in spending outside Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security that would shrink the government — including defense! — back to 1920s levels.
5. Replacing Medicare with vouchers that would leave most seniors unable to afford insurance. Right.

So if we focus only on the real stuff, this is a plan to leave the deficit pretty much where it is, but to sharply cut aid to the poor while sharply cutting taxes on the rich.

To see the history of Federal spending and revenue go to this website.

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