Are Republicans Ready to Acknowledge the Difference Between Military Spending and Defense Spending?


The Washington Post reports that House Republicans, while firmly opposed to new taxes as a way of reducing federal borrowing, may be warming to the idea of defense cuts, historically anathema to Team Elephant:

Senior GOP lawmakers and leadership aides said it would be far easier to build support for a debt-reduction package that cuts the Pentagon budget—a key Democratic demand—than one that raises revenue by tinkering with the tax code….

"When we say everything is on the table, that's what we mean," said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the No. 3 leader who has been hosting the listening sessions in his Capitol offices.

Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) could serve as a poster boy for the new breed of conservatives who are eager to wipe out government waste and inefficiency, no matter where they find it. Kinzinger, an active-duty Air National Guardsman who flew missions in Iraq, fought successfully last month to cut a request for $100 million to buy new flight suits for Air Force pilots. The old ones, he argued, are good enough.

Defense spending is "a pillar of Republican strength. It's a pillar of national strength. Look, I know there are sacred cows," Kinzinger said in an interview. "But we cannot afford them anymore."…

The old GOP hawks are finding that their tea-party-influenced troops are more interested in saving money than protecting turf at the Pentagon. Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a leader among the 87 House Republican freshmen, said the military budget is widely viewed as loaded with pork that has little bearing on the day-to-day battles in Afghanistan and other hot spots.

"If there are sacred cows, we ought to find them and get rid of them," said Scott, who represents a district where more than a third of voters hail from military families.

"I would never support anything that would reduce the safety of the troops on the ground," said Rep. Robert Hurt (R-Va.), a freshman whose district runs south from Charlottesville. "But bureaucracy is bureaucracy, and there are ways to get at it, even in the Pentagon."

While I'd like to believe that Republicans are finally seeing the light on military spending, these comments suggest otherwise. When one country with no hostile nations on its borders is spending nearly as much on military programs as all the other countries of the world combined, the solution has to go beyond trimming pork, cutting back on "bureaucracy," or insisting that pilots get more mileage out of their flight suits. The fundamental problem is that most of our so-called defense budget is spent on things that have little or nothing to do with defense, such as protecting wealthy allies who are perfectly capable of protecting themselves, attacking tinpot dictators who pose no threat to us, and responding to terrorist attacks with doomed, decade-long nation-building projects. Far from being the top priority that needs to be protected, "the day-to-day battles in Afghanistan and other hot spots" are emblematic of the fuzziness and overreach that make the U.S. "defense" budget so absurdly bloated.