Part of the debt deal that was enacted this year requires that a Congressional committee has to find $1.2 trillion to cut from the federal budget over ten years. If the committee cannot come to an agreement by November 23rd, and both houses can’t pass the recommendations by December 23rd, then $1 trillion worth of cuts are automatically implemented. Half of that amount would come from the Pentagon. Fearing that their organizations are about to take a healthy hit in their pocketbooks, a whole host of generals, admirals, secretaries, and under secretaries have been testifying on Capitol Hill recently about the dire consequences which would result from any cuts to military budgets. Congressmen, but especially Republicans, are listening, and a few are preparing legislation that would exempt the Pentagon from the automatic cuts should the debt committee fail in their task. This is just too damned rich.
Half a trillion bucks sounds like a lot of money, and it is. But spread over ten years, that amounts to $50 billion worth of reductions a year. The Pentagon’s budget will also continue to rise, but they will be forced to find savings in there somewhere every year. According to the Department of Defense’s own numbers, in 2010, total military spending, including supplemental appropriations for actually fighting wars, was $691 billion. That’s for one year of running the most expensive military machine the world has ever seen, and was a $34 billion increase over 2009. Projected spending for 2011 is $708 billion. That’s a $51 billion increase over two years, and the Pentagon is crying about having to give most of that cash back in the form of cuts?
The hyperbole isn’t just coming from military brass or their civilian bosses, either. Howard P. McKeon, a GOP representative from California, was quoted in the New York Times today as saying, “[The cuts] will cause irreversible damage. It will hollow the military.”
“Hollow the military,” he says. This is utter nonsense.
The military of the United States is the single greatest boondoggle ever perpetrated on the people of this country, never mind it’s deleterious effect on countless people the world over. The fact is, it’s an embarrassment that our military has been allowed to grow essentially unimpeded since the days when Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex. The idea that the military will fall to pieces if it has to operate on merely $650 billion a year is an indication that the entire organization is a bloated corpse of bureaucracy and inefficiency. Congress would be doing it a favor by forcing draconian cuts. For the good of the military, it needs to have its budget cut in order to foster leanness and efficiency. The process would be painful to an extent, especially in the arena of military contracting, where a good number of jobs are tethered to military largess. But it has always been among the worst aspects of our society that so many bright minds are sucked into the world of weapons development, fostering death, when their talents could be put to better use for mankind elsewhere.
Up on Capitol Hill, GOP lawmakers must be feeling the sting. John Boehner crowed loudly after the debt deal was signed that he got 99% of what he wanted. Cutting the Pentagon purse by $500 billion is quite a one percent. To his credit, Boehner is not one of the lawmakers calling for an exemption for the military (for now), but it’s clear the GOP got played on the automatic cuts, especially seeing as how Medicare has a cap to cuts it is allowed to absorb, and Medicaid is exempt from all cuts should the debt committee fail in its assigned duties.
But worse than that is the fact that Congress is failing in its duties once again. It spent a good deal of time hammering out a deal that screwed the American people a bit more during a time of economic crisis, with the understanding that tough decisions were required. To ensure those tough decisions were made, they built in a failsafe meant to force the two warring parties to come to agreement, and now that any agreement seems so far off, some members of Congress are scrambling to change the rules of the game. Is it any wonder these people only have an approval rating of 9%?