Moving aggressively to make good on election promises to slash the federal budget, the House GOP today unveiled an eye-popping plan to eliminate $2.5 trillion in spending over the next 10 years. Gone would be Amtrak subsidies, fat checks to the Legal Services Corporation and National Endowment for the Arts, and some $900 million to run President Obama's healthcare reform program. What's more, the "Spending Reduction Act of 2011" proposed by members of the conservative Republican Study Committee, chaired by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, would reduce current spending for non-defense, non-homeland security and non-veterans programs to 2008 levels, eliminate federal control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, cut the federal workforce by 15 percent through attrition, and cut some $80 billion by blocking implementation of Obamacare. – US News and World Report
Dominant Social Theme: It is important to defend the realm.
Free-Market Analysis: House Republicans have issued a list of cuts to be made to federal spending. We quote from the article excerpted above: The proposals "would reduce current spending for non-defense, non-homeland security and non-veterans programs to 2008 levels." Homeland Security is apparently exempt from most cuts as is the Pentagon.
It is a kind of weary dominant social theme. America must protect herself abroad and this demands enormous military outlays. The war in Afghanistan may be unwinnable, but US hawks maintain that it is a war the US cannot lose. In fact, as we have pointed out in numerous articles, the war is not being waged so much for the sake of buttressing US security as it is to Westernize one of the world's last major military/tribal powers, the Pashtuns – to better facilitate global governance in that region of the world. It is a war of the power elite for the furtherance of the new world order, not American security.
At some point even elite wars cannot be maintained. Pocketbook issues will surmount elite promotional gambits. The war is increasingly unpopular and sooner or later, the United States is set for a bruising debate over its endless expense and the larger costs of the military-industrial complex itself (along with the military-intelligence complex), which must easily amount to US$1 trillion a year. Apparently House Republicans don't realize it yet.
We recall that just before 9/11, Donald Rumsfeld announced that the Pentagon had mislaid some US$2 trillion, which could not be accounted for. In the chaos after 9/11, the issue faded from public perception (even though the money is still missing). Such a cavalier approach to defense spending will not be tolerated in the current environment.
If the Republicans do not seize on the issue, it will be thrust upon them. By apparently refusing to consider significant defense-spending and Homeland Security cuts, Republicans are headed for a bruising fight with Democrats who will not want to chop social programs solely.
And what about Homeland Security? Is it better run than the Pentagon? There is a larger moral issue to consider in this regard. The brain trust at Homeland Security in particular has come in for a good deal of criticism; and House Republicans seem to be ignoring serious issues when they exempt the agency unilaterally from cuts. The way the Republicans have gone about this exercise would seem guaranteed to provoke a maximum amount discord within Congress.
But the sums are not supportable. And despite House reluctance, some Republicans may already have entered the fray. North Carolina Republican Congressman Walter Jones – a strong supporter of America's serial wars in the past – recently took the House floor to call on the Obama administration to make a significant drawdown of troops in Afghanistan as promised in 2011. He also praised Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, who recently demanded a national debate on the war. Both men now say they would like more conservatives to make private anti-war views public. Here's an excerpt of his statement:
It is time for them to speak out publicly, Mr. Speaker. We need to become more engaged in the issue and make our feelings known. Mr. Speaker, I have mentioned before that a retired military general has been my adviser on Afghanistan for the past year. I'd like to share two points he made in a recent email. The first point he made is, and I quote, "What is the end state we are looking to achieve, measures of effectiveness? What is our exit strategy?"… The second point the general made in his email to me: "What do we say to the mother and father, to the wife of the last soldier or Marine killed to support a corrupt government and corrupt leader in a war that cannot be won?" […] It is time that Congress and the American people really look at what is going on and what war really means.
Jones' statement comes in the midst of an escalating – though little reported – political crisis in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has delayed the inauguration of the country's new parliament to investigate electoral fraud. Karzai's opponents maintain he is on a fishing expedition to weaken the results of the September election, which brought to power opponents of Karzai, and they reject the delay. A constitutional emergency is brewing; it may complicate the American "surge" even further.
Rand Paul, the new Republican Senator from Kentucky and son of the famous libertarian conservative Congressman Rand Paul (R-Tex) has begun suggesting radical cuts in the federal budget. But unlike House Republicans, Rand Paul's suggestions apparently include military reductions. We have been critical of Rand Paul's positions in the past as too-often they seem to suggest US nationalism more than free-market libertarianism. However, if it is Rand Paul's position that significant military cuts are necessary to accompany non-military ones, this would seem to be a step forward when it comes to the national debate over how to pare back what is now estimated to be US$200 trillion in American obligations.
There are those who would say that such vast obligations are not amenable to political solutions at this point in time (it is too late) and that a default is inevitable. But whether there is a default or not, US political figures – especially those on the Right – must engage in a debate over military spending. If they do not do so voluntarily, it will be thrust upon them. The Afghan war is also destined for significant debate, especially If Obama does not make a significant draw-down in 2011.
One can make the point that by refusing to broach significant military budget cuts, the House Republican brain trust is merely being clever and readying itself for a prolonged negotiation with Democrats. But this treats military cuts as a reluctant necessity rather than an inevitable one. Perhaps despite the Tea Party furor, they do not fully understand how the political landscape has shifted.