If This is What Sequestration Looks Like, No Wonder We Are Already Broke: Defense Spending Edition


Almost immediately after the Dems and Reps cut last year's debt-limit budget deal (a.k.a The Budget Control Act of 2011), all the players started carping about the draconian effects of possible cuts on subsidies to sugar and corn producers, cowboy poetry readings, and prescription drug plans for wealthy seniors. But most of the bitching and moaning centered around defense spending, which was going to be cut to the bone, right (never mind that defense spending rose 71 percent in real terms between 2001 and 2010)? If sequestration was allowed to happen, the Department of Defense was going to see about $600 billion cut from its budgets over the next 10 years.

Recall for a second the idiotic deal that was cut last year: For a $2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling, legislators agreed to about $900 billion in immediate spending cuts and pledged to cut another $1.2 trillion over the coming decade. Just to be fair, remember that we're talking about $1.2 trillion dollars taken out of a projected $44 trillion or so in spending. What kind of budget discipline is that? You get access to up to $2 trillion in exchange for spreading an equal amount of cuts (read: reductions in expected spending increases) over 10 years! The poison pill was the threat of "sequestration," or automatic cuts that would heavily target defense spending if a budget "super-committee" couldn't come up with the $1.2 trillion in broader-based cuts.

Well, needless to say, the super-commission punted, which is precisely what you should expect from a group comprising the same spendthrifts who needed to goose the debt-ceiling by $2 trillion. Sequestration will kick in come 2013 unless something magical happens. And by magical, I mean a compromise to raise taxes and cut other parts of the budget that haven't suffered through a 71 percent increase over the past decade.

Obama Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Mitt Romney, and everyone else agrees that cutting one thin dime from current military spending would be disastrous, awakening the Kraken and laying us open to all sorts of attacks by real and imaginary foes.

But it just ain't so. Reason columnist and Mercatus Center economist has parsed the budget to chart what would happen to the defense budget under various scenarios. Here's what she found:

Total defense spending, including war funding, crested in 2010, which is what you'd expect from a country winding down a long war in Iraq and futzing around in Afghanistan. What's really in play is that red area above, but even under the worst-case outcome—Budget Control Caps and full sequestration—what you see is minor blip down before the relentless march upwards and onwards toward greater and greater military spending, regardless of need or threat. As de Rugy writes:

One important factor in weighing the effect of sequestration is the preemptive measures that policymakers are taking to limit sequestration's effect on non-war accounts. While sequestration applies to both the base and OCO [war funding] budgets, policymakers can add funds to OCO to make up for losses affecting the base. This is possible because OCO funding is not restricted by the BCA caps. 

As the chart shows, defense spending has almost doubled in the past decade in current dollar terms and will continue to grow in spite of automatic cuts set by the BCA. Clarifying these figures reveals that sequester cuts do not warrant the fears of policymakers who warn about "savage cuts" to the defense budget. 

Read the whole piece here. Elsewhere, de Rugy noted that difference between defenese sequestration and no defense sequestration is the difference between a projected 16 percent increase and a 23 percent increase in funds over the next decade.

Put simply, if the U.S. military cannot defend the country for the year or so that sequestration might trim its fat momentarily, we've already lost whatever the hell we're fighting to protect.

Watch "3 Reasons Conservaties [of all people!] Should Cut Defense Spending Now!"

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  1. The spending will not stop. Our government has reached critical mass. It has grown past the size where it can be controlled or reduced without catastrophe such as revolution. The politicians will do whatever they can, for as long as they can, to borrow, steal more on the margins, whatever, to keep things going. How long can they do this? I don’t know. My guess is: quite some time. In fact, if they keep increasing the rate of stealing slowly enough, it could be for a long time.

    And they know this, which is why no one is even attempting to stop it.

    1. Eventually people (and governments) will stop buying treasuries. Creditors will bitch up a storm, but the next logical step is for the printing presses to go into overdrive. Then….

      1. Then what? They will just find ways to stretch it out. Their fucking lives, power, and livelihood depend on it. You don’t think they’ll find ways?

        1. I don’t think they will, no. They’ll try starting a big fucking war, price controls, wage controls, quadrupling down on every stupid policy from the last 100 years that brought us to this point. But they’re playing a losing game, just like the Soviets were. The economy is going to go much deeper into the shitter. I don’t know what will happen after that. Civil war? Complete breakup of the U.S.? Whatever happens, the federal government as it is today won’t be there any longer.

  2. I was told by commentors here that the Budget Control Act of 2011 didn’t really exist.

    Is it lame? Sure, but the GOP (and Panetta) think otherwise.

    1. It’s a shame you can’t say “the GOP *and* the Democrats are both full of shit, and all of them should die in a fire”, shrike.

      Because that would require you to be truthful.

    2. the Budget Control Act of 2011 didn’t really exist

      It exists.

      Two things about it though that you fail to understand.

      1. The act is a not a budget.
      2. Congress and the president are going to ignore it anyway.

  3. “I was told by commentors here that the Budget Control Act of 2011 didn’t really exist.”

    No, you were told that the Budget Control Act of 2011 wasn’t a budget and it still isn’t a fucking budget.

    1. He’d have to remove Biden’s cock from his ass long enough to go back to the keyboard and type “you’re a lying Christ-fag”, Camping. Shrike’s a busy Team Bluetool.

      1. Shrike’s a busy Team Bluetool.

        How dare you sir?!?!?

        Shrike himself told me he is libertarian of the high Hayekian sort.

        In fact he even told me that he was the only true libertarian here.

  4. Here is a blog post about another base in Germany that the US Army keeps open even though it is suppose to close and even though the US Army in Europe is getting smaller and smaller. The Generals have built an empire of good living and privileges in Europe and they refuse to shut it down even when the actual needs to support US soldiers get smaller and smaller.

  5. But we’ve been through the budget line by line, and pared it to the bone.


  6. How long can they do this?

    For at least as long as people are willing to believe Paul Ryan is a radical budget-slashing grannykiller.

  7. You know, Leon Panetta is beginning to look a lot like Henry Kissinger.

    1. Look like? Oh, you poor, na?ve fool!

      I’ve met Panetta, so I guess I am, in a small way, responsible for his actions.

  8. I know where we can cut $100M. Congressional salaries. o_0

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