Establishment conservatives love to talk about the need to cut government spending, but they always seem to find an excuse whenever there is a serious effort to actually do it. Last year, for example, they opposed cutting Medicare as part of health care reform. Now they are banding together to stop cuts in defense spending, which is a fifth of the federal budget, even as they also insist that the deficit is our most critical problem.Bartlett then goes on to point out that the America's defense spending makes up 54% of the world military budgey. That means that America spends more then half the world combined.
This hypocrisy was on full display on Oct. 4, as American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks, Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner, and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol penned a joint op-ed for the right-wing Wall Street Journal editorial page on why the defense budget should be totally off limits to budget cutters.
First, they claim the military is not the “true source of our fiscal woes.” No one is saying the defense budget is the sole source of the deficit, but the fact is that it has risen from 3 percent of the gross domestic product in fiscal year 2001 to 4.7 percent this year. That additional 1.7 percent of GDP amounts to $250 billion in spending — almost 20 percent of this year’s budget deficit. And according to a recent Congressional Research Service report, the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone accounted for 23 percent of the combined budget deficits between fiscal years 2003 and 2010.
Brooks, Feulner and Kristol then claim that “terrorism and piracy in sea lanes around the world,” potential future threats from a “nuclear Iran” or a China “that can deny access to U.S. ships or aircraft in the Asian-Pacific region” justify a defense budget only slightly smaller as a share of GDP than at the height of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union had thousands of nuclear missiles targeted directly at the United States.
I personally enjoyed Barltett's concluding paragraph:
So far, Republicans have been able to delude voters and perhaps themselves that the budget can be balanced without higher taxes, and by cutting only domestic discretionary programs. When reality finally sets in and they have no choice but to accept that this is impossible, establishment conservatives like Brooks, Feulner and Kristol must decide which is more important to them: opposing all tax increases or preserving the defense budget. We will then find out if they genuinely care about our national security or are what Thomas Paine called summer soldiers and sunshine patriots.