Government Spending

More Republicans Who Support Cutting Defense Spending


Last month I pointed out that a piece in The Wall Street Journal questioning whether Republicans would cut defense spending only managed to name only two Republicans who were actually on record as wanting to trim the military budget. And both had the same last name: Paul. Now, Rand and Ron Paul are better than nothing, but they're hardly enough to make me believe that a party widely understood to be committed to unlimited defense spending might substantially change its tune. Today, though, Cato's Chris Preble also suggests that the tide may be turning, and he has a handful of other GOP names to add to the list of potential defense-budget cutters:

More and more figures on the right—especially some darlings of the all-important tea party movement—are coming forward to utter a conservative heresy: that the Pentagon budget cow perhaps should not be so sacred after all.

Sen.-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky was the latest, declaring on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that military spending should not be exempt from the electorate's clear desire to reduce the massive federal deficit.  His comments follow similar musings by leading fiscal hawks Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, a presumptive contender for the GOP nomination in 2012.  Others who agree that military spending shouldn't get a free pass as we search for savings include Sen. Johnny IsaksonSen. Bob CorkerSen.-elect Pat Toomey—the list goes on.

Preble's list is more persuasive than the Journal's, and I certainly hope there are more names to add in the near future. But I'm still not sure it can compete with the line of conservative powerhouses, including Sarah Palin, Bill Kristol, and the presidents of both AEI and Heritage, who've stepped up to defend ever-increasing military spending. Still, there are 60 new Republicans in the House, many of whom ran on cutting spending. If any of them are serious about those cuts, the bloated defense budget is a good place to start. That's especially true given that Democrats, who still control the Senate, aren't quite as likely to object as they might be with other types of cuts, like entitlement spending (though obviously President Obama's record on defense spending isn't so hot either). Certainly there's a lot of fat to be trimmed: Reason's Brian Doherty recently pointed to estimates indicating that we're scheduled to spend as much as $588 billion on overseas wars over the next decade. And Preble, along with Benjamin Friedman, has identified $1.2 trillion in defense expenditures that could be taken out of the budget over the next ten years.

Yet even with the possibility of a bipartisan consensus, it's hard to be too hopeful. After all, in practice escalating defense spending has historically been subject to bipartisan agreement. And if President Obama, who campaigned as an anti-war candidate, can't even stick to his meager promises to start drawing down overseas troop deployments, what are the chances that Republicans will take up the cause of significantly paring back defense spending on their own?  

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  1. I don’t see the problem with defense spending. It is good for the economy, it worked for Reagan. I am worried that Obama may not spend enough on our military.

    1. We have to worry about being attacked by China, Russia, Iran or North Korea.

      1. Yes, the evil masterminds of CRINK.

        1. As Defense Sec. Gates mentioned:

          It does no good to spend $10-$15 billion on an aircraft carrier that can easily be taken out by a highly accurate $1 million dollar cruise missle.

          1. PHALANX would make short work of it.

            I think the bigger question is who are carrier task forces aimed at? Last I read, we have 10 of them and the rest of the world has the equivalent of one. At this point we’re doing a Cold War victory lap.

            The smart play is to leverage the prosperity of those liberal democracies that have strategic security concerns — let Israel, Japan, S Korea, and Taiwan buy the weapons systems to defend themselves.

          2. May as well not train any soldiers then either. Have you seen what bullets cost?

            1. Unmanned predator drones may eventually replace soldiers the way tractors replaced large teams of men working fields of crops.

              Don’t have to feed them, give them time off, house them, take care of their health care needs, etc.

        2. or CRUNK plus Iran

          1. The shadowy mastermind behind CRUNK.

            1. Oh yeah, that’s some funny shit:) I like the Crunk juice a hell of a lot better then Red Bull. Can’t find it in the stores here anywhere though. Just a couple bars carry it. Not a big energy drink person anyways.

      2. And not just those, but virtually every other sovereign and unsovereign nation on earth with the exception of Israel, who will be there to rescue us…

    2. If you believe a free market is the most efficient way to allocate resources and grow the economy, then defense spending like all government spending is not good. Every dollar taxed to pay for defense costs is a dollar that cannot be spent on goods and services that people actually want to purchase. Now, most people will think we do need some level of defense spending, but do we really need to be defending western Europe, S. Korea, and Japan now? These are modern countries capable of paying their own way now. And do we need to be involved in nation building like we are in Iraq and Afghanistan? I don’t think we do. Cutting out those obligations would go a long way in reducing the defense budget without compromising the military’s ability to defend the country. Also, the driving force behind the economic growth in the 80’s was tax reform and deregulation, not military spending.

      1. Hmm… is there a way to replace the DoD with a free market…

      2. Now, most people will think we do need some level of defense spending, but do we really need to be defending western Europe, S. Korea, and Japan now? These are modern countries capable of paying their own way now.

        Agreed, and we can make money selling them weapons.

  2. Spend less on everything.

    1. …except hookers and blow. Wait, that’s my budget, not the gummint’s. Sorry.

      1. I find it hard to believe that no agency–particularly one funded with some of the dark budget funds–has an allowance for hookers and blow.

      2. That’s because the lobbyists are supplying the hookers and blow.

    2. Paul (Rand) apparently called for a 25% cut across the board today.

      1. Excellent.

      2. Big Lumber’s not gonna like that.

      3. Including hookers and blow?

  3. I think for it to work politically, Republicans in the House would have to package cuts in defense spending with cuts in entitlement spending, so people opposed to one but not the other could have political cover.

    1. The problem is the typical American voter objects to cutting all of these things. Americans want a massive military to save the world, social security, medicare, low taxes and no deficit.

      That means you shred every other last piece of the budget just to break even and not even begin to touch the debt or you believe in the Easter Bunny.

      1. My, Nash, what a broad brush you have!

  4. Then how are they going to fund the superwar against Norway?

    1. By selling tickets and getting paid big dollars for concessions and merchandising.

      1. Don’t forget PPV.

        1. And box seats.

          1. Does this mean we’ll still be on the hook for building the stadium?

            1. No. The Norwegians have to pay for that.

          2. Jeebus PL, you live in the past.

            Luxury sky boxes is where the big money’s at.

            1. Krusty the Clown: I don’t how to thank you kids.

              Bart: That’s okay, Krusty.

              Lisa Simpson: We’re getting fifty percent of the t-shirt sales.

              Krusty the Clown: WHAT? That’s the sweetest plum! You little…!

            2. Literally in the sky, in giant blimps.

              1. I think I smell a tie-in opportunity for the Ron Paul 2012 run.

  5. I think a lot of the GOP is more open to cutting spending. The Cold War is long over, Iraq has pretty well wound down, AQ is a problem but not a resource-intensive one, the Norks are a bad joke… there’s really little left but excessive paranoia about China, which is liberalizing.

    All in all, I’d say fairly massive cuts may be on the table in a way they haven’t been for GOPpers in a long time.

    1. Where’s my peace dividend?

      1. It’s coming, just have patience, lots of patience…

    2. Still got to take care of Iran…and those Norks are crazy. Other than that I agree with you. Invading Iran should only take a fraction of the mountain of money America shovels at the military.

      1. Iraqis will great us as liberators!

  6. I don’t see the problem with defense spending. It is good for the economy

    Taking money away from civilian uses for things people want, in order to pay for pork barrel spending, harms the economy. You’re ignoring both the unseen effects of government spending, and the point that economic activity is meant to meet human needs. The point of production is consumption, not creating jobs for the sake of disguised welfare in the form of pointless and unnecessary tasks that consume useful resources.

  7. Pres. Mitch Daniels would save his party, and likely his country.

    Unfortunately, I think the GOP’s base is far too dumb to nominate him.

  8. I feel like this is another “way-too-early-you’re-just-getting-my-hopes-up-only-to-be-crushed-later-like-a-Radley-Balko-article-to-the-nads”….

    so I’m ignoring this. We’ll see what they do when actual budgets get made, and stuff. Don’t trust ’em.

    1. Yeah. especially when the government and their media lapdogs definition of a “cut” is when you increase spending by less then you had originally planned.

  9. The DoD spends more than twice what it costs for projects and concessions on post than the private sector does. For every WalMart employee that makes $8/hr, AAFES makes $15 (while paying a worker $8). Paving a lot on a military installation generally pays more than twice what a private business does for the same square footage. If a QM officer needs hammers, he has to get multiple quotes and has to submit the PO for approval and a bunch of silly criteria must be met.

    The government could get the same equipment and services for the military at approximately half the prices they are paying if there were truly competitive bidding processes and if common sense decisions were able to be made without going through the bullshit processes they currently have to go through.

    Of course, we can thank AlGor for a lot of that shit. His “Acquisition Reform” program (that Clinton adopted over much outrage) all but did away with federal auditors of contractors in 1993.

  10. I was trying to convince a friend about this yesterday. Once I got him convinced we were broke (How many trillion more in debt do you think those silly foriegners are going to buy?) I worked on the defense cuts.

    We can park 4-5 carrier battle groups now or park them all and maybe have to sell a few of them in five to six years to pay for a month or two of medicare.

  11. What is so wrong with cutting a few bases that are not needed or with letting other countries PAY FOR THEIR OWN DEFENSE! We don’t have to cut everything all at once but can leave a skeletal force behind to allow them time to develop their own defense.

  12. Whatever we cut from the military should also be matched with social security and medicare.

    1. Proportionally matched, I hope; in other words if you cut 5% from defense, then 5% from other programs, not a dollar-per-dollar match.

  13. How about stop paying more then 4% GDP to defend Europe which spends less then 2% GDP, South Korea which spnds less then 2% GDP and Japan which spends less then 1% GDP on defense. Its more then sixty years since WW2, our “allies” need to spend their own money on their own defense and the US should let its taxpayers keep their own money.

  14. America,militarily, spends more than the rest of the world combined. Bases in 175 countries. Surely, this more than excessive.

    1. The private companies supplying the military like spending on pork. It’s not audited, so they can charge what they like. And bases are spread across the country so there’s local resistance to stopping the waste. Citizens don’t realize that they would do lots better by leaving the money in private hands rather than let it be wasted by the government…

      “The power to tax involves the power to destroy,” wrote Chief Justice John Marshall in 1819. Yet this view lacks lacked vision. As we’ve seen time and again, government can destroy in all sorts of ways beyond taxation. The lack of competition ensures significant waste. More or less most things coercive and uncompetitive institutions touch is put immediately at risk of collective disaster from stupid and/or petulant political decisions.

  15. US Military is the largest consumer of oil in the world as well so will be interesting to see how that plays out in the renewable energy debates.

  16. I like Ron Paul and it’s great that his son became Senator. But I guess that the military is politically so strong that a a handfull clever people can not achieve anything.

    We also have to see that the US are the last remaining Super Power, but China will fill this gap in the upcoming decades.

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