3 Reasons Why Conservatives Should Fight for Defense Spending Cuts

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The Department of Defense will soon be ushering in a leader and all eyes are on Ashton Carter, a physicist nominated by President Obama to be the new Defense Secretary. With a new administration, will the Pentagon be able to come up with a new and reduced budget? Here are 3 reasons why conservatives should urge spending cuts for the Pentagon.

Initially published on Jan. 10, 2012. Original text below:

The Congressional Budget Office projects that if we keep spending the way we have been, federal debt held by the public will grow from around 60 percent of GDP to a whopping 82 percent of GDP over the next decade, with no end in sight. That's the sort of borrowing that can ruin a country's economy.

Conservative Republicans are happy to talk about cutting spending on the poor, education, and cowboy poetry readings, but they insist that spending on defense and homeland security be increased.

Given that spending on defense and homeland security accounts for a whopping 20 percent of the government's budget, that's a non-starter. As with every other legitimate function of government, we need to squeeze spending down to the lowest level possible that still gets the job done.

Here are three reasons conservatives—and all other red-blooded Americans—should cut defense spending now.

1. War is Over! Didn't we just win—or at least end—the war in Iraq? And aren't we winding down in Afghanistan? After World War II, Vietnam, and the end of the Cold War, military spending got cut, as it should have been.
More to the point, spending on the military and homeland security grew by 90 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars since 2000. If al Qaeda and most international terrorists groups have been largely vanquished, we should not just be bringing the troops home, but dollars too.
Unless, that is, conservatives want to seriously argue that nearly doubling outlays for the past decade haven't yielded results that would allow us to dial down defense spending.

2. What price safety? The United States already accounts for about 45 percent of the planet's military outlays—more than the next 14 countries combined. Most of those countries are our allies as well, so we should be able to stay safe while reducing our military spending.

It's a conservative truism that government programs, even ones that are sanctioned by the constitution, tend to be bloated, inefficient, and incompetent. Surely that same logic applies to the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. In fact, Republican Reps. John Mica and Paul Broun marked the 10th anniversary of the Transportation Security Administration with a report that concluded that after spending $56 billion in security measures, flying is no safer now than it was before the 9/11 attacks. 

If conservatives can't find wasteful spending and useless programs in defense and homeland security to cut, they've got bigger problems than terrorists to deal with.

3. Attacking the Military-Industrial Complex is a Republican Virtue—And Good Politics. It was a Republican president—the war hero Dwight Eisenhower—who sounded the alarm about the military-industrial complex's insidious ability to grow and grow like a cancer on the American body politic. And right now, it's Democrats such as Defense Secretary Leon Panentta leading the cry for a blank check despite admitting that there are tons of duplicative programs in his department.

In his proposed 2011 budget, President Barack Obama actually calls for bigger spending on defense and homeland security than the Republicans do. Obama's recent announcement that he may trim some planned increases over the next decade doesn't change that.

Americans are rightly tired not just of dubious, inconclusive wars that have led to the death of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of others. A growing number of us are tired of out-of-control spending by a Washington elite that is totally out of touch with everyday Americans.

If conservatives want to push forward on reducing spending on Medicaid and other domestic programs, they should show that they take their own limited government philosophy seriously by pushing for defense cuts between now and the 2012 elections.

About 3 minutes long.

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36 responses to “3 Reasons Why Conservatives Should Fight for Defense Spending Cuts

  1. 3 Reasons Why Conservatives Should Fight for Defense Spending Cuts

    So good, she had to post it twice! So there must be 6 reasons to cut defense spending.

    1. Should have posted it three times

    2. Squirrels are non-discriminatory.

  2. 1. War is Over! Didn’t we just win — or at least end — the war in Iraq? And aren’t we winding down in Afghanistan? After World War II, Vietnam, and the end of the Cold War, military spending got cut, as it should have been.

    The thing is, that in WW II and Vietnam, we ramped up production of our military equipment in support the war effort. That hasn’t happened in the wars since 9/11. There were no new/replacement aircraft/tanks/vehicles… We went to war with what we had and spent 13 years (not counting the 10 years the AF was supporting Northern and Southern Watch after Gulf War 1) grinding that equipment into the sand. These machines were used an order of magnitude more than what they were designed for and will need to be replaced. The spending for that shit is just beginning.

    I don’t disagree that the military needs to be cut, but it needs to be as a result of policy. We could easily cut the military by half if we simply resolve to NOT be the world’s cop and stay the fuck out of everyone else’s chilli. We could adopt a policy of fighting wars as an option absolute last resort rather than option 1.

    As it is, we’ve decimated our conventional capabilities and gotten little or nothing in the way of national security in return. Your money has been positively squandered for 13 years because ignorant politicians used the wrong tool (instrument of national power) for the job.

    You cannot use conventional warfare to defeat terrorism.

    1. You cannot use conventional warfare to defeat terrorism.

      Absolute nonsense. Sri Lanka did just that. So did Peru.

      We could adopt a policy of fighting wars as an option absolute last resort rather than option 1.

      This idea that America uses war as option 1 is a fever-fantasy of your making. Making war the absolute last resort is a dogma-fantasy of your making. You’re right, we need to base military spending on policy. It has to be rational policy, and that’s where your part in this ends.

      1. Russia has done it recently too.

      2. So a rational policy discussion is one you wouldn’t be participating in, would it Mr. Wet-your-pants-about-Iran?

    2. True that there is worn out equipment that should be replaced – by cheaper new stuff, not more gold-plated toys.

  3. SQUIRLZ!!!!

  4. Way to get more donations, reason. Delete the duplicate with more comments.

    1. For a site called “reason”, ….

      1. it never would have happened when Postrel was editor. unless we were being jerks.

  5. BLAM!!

    If conservatives can’t find wasteful spending and useless programs in defense and homeland security to cut, they’ve got bigger problems than terrorists to deal with.

    Just give those wasteful and useless programs to the terrorists!

  6. Dammit Reason, why’d you delete the article with more comments? We were having a good bitch-off there.

  7. I’ll support cutting defense, if there are also healthcare and social security cuts. Stop just focusing on defense Reason.

    1. Same here. But of course it’s never going to happen, and frankly I’m kind of getting tired of being told that it’s always the conservatives who have to compromise. The motherfucking “progressives” control everything in this country, when are they going to compromise on something for once?

      1. It’s because of their degree of control that they do not have to compromise.

    2. I’ll support cutting defense even if you increase other budget lines. It’s too damn high!

      1. no and that’s bullshit. Defense is an actual enumerated function of the federal govt. The welfare state, not so much. And why is, to echo Mike, that it is anyone who leans right who has to compromise? I’m tired of it. Fuck them all. Cut ALL spending.

        1. Because they’re the ones in a compromised position. You don’t ask the one holding the gun to compromise, you ask some of the people in the room who don’t have guns to compromise.

    3. Yeah, I never see articles on Reason criticizing the healthcare or entitlement systems. HYPOCRITES!

      1. How about when they yanh yanh about denfense, they also yanh yanh about healthcare and social security?

        They aren’t going to get conservatives to support cutting defense just by talking about defense.

  8. Oh, snap. This is the post that stayed? Daaaaa-yummm.

  9. 3 reasons our flying cars should be powered by unicorn farts.

    1. Hey, I’m trying to introduce some realism into the discussion!

  10. So they get rid of the one with the most comments.

    FUCKING INTERNZ!

    1. So wait, you’re saying that in add’n to not linking the comments from the Jan. 2012 blog entry, there was an earlier reposting today that had comments that they also didn’t merge with the re-repost?

      1. Let’s be perfectly clear.

        They should delete the comments from previous postings. No one wants to wade through 150 comments of people who aren’t on and likely won’t be.

        But yes, they double posted this article today and then deleted the one that had accumulated 93 comments and had a debate going on, without merging them.

        1. I like to wade thru old comments. What’s the difference if the people aren’t there? Their words still are.

          1. I don’t mind seeing the old comments. Maybe those could be given a grey background to indicate they are old?

  11. Republican Reps. John Mica and Paul Broun marked the 10th anniversary of the Transportation Security Administration with a report that concluded that after spending $56 billion in security measures, flying is no safer now than it was before the 9/11 attacks.

    But that budget cannot be cut. The rate of increase cannot even be modified, because the vast “What IF?” chorus of the Bipartisan Precautionary Principle Coalition will lurch into full throated song at the merest hint that we might be “dropping our guard”.

  12. “Given that spending on defense and homeland security accounts for a whopping 20 percent of the government’s budget, that’s a non-starter. As with every other legitimate function of government, we need to squeeze spending down to the lowest level possible that still gets the job done.”

    Why focus FIRST on “squeezing spending down to the lowest level possible” on legitimate functions of government instead of focusing first on completely eliminating illegitimate and unconstitutional functions of government?

    There may be a significant percentage of military spending that is excessive but that percentage is not 100% whereas the percentage is absolutely 100% of unconstitutional federal activities.

    According the pie chart of federal outlays in the 2014 1040 tax instruction booklet, for fiscal 2012 defense spending is 24% of the total. Social Security, Medicare and other retirement is 38%, Social programs are 21%, physical, human and community development is 9%, interest on the debt is 6% and law enforcement and general government is 2%.

    So the legitimate, Constitutional functions of government – the military, law enforcement & general government and interest on the debt amount to 32% of federal outlays combined with the remaining 68% being spent on things that are Constitutionally none of the federal government’s business.

    If spending is to be cut, then the place to start is all those activities that make up that 68% of federal outlays.

    1. Why focus FIRST on “squeezing spending down to the lowest level possible” on legitimate functions of government instead of focusing first on completely eliminating illegitimate and unconstitutional functions of government?

      Maybe because you can get more help with that.

      I don’t think they’re saying to focus 1st there. This is scattershot (not a bad idea), and this is the shot you are focusing on. Just today there was one about agriculture.

  13. Why don’t they merge this comment thread with the one from 3 yrs. ago? They didn’t even link the damn article, just credited it.

    Conservative Republicans are happy to talk about cutting spending on the poor, education, and cowboy poetry readings, but they insist that spending on defense and homeland security be increased.

    Let’s figure out why that is. I think one of the major reasons is stupid interest thinking: They don’t like the fact that spending on the poor, education, & cowboy poetry has increased, and thereby diminished the percentage of total gov’t spending on defense & security, so they figure the way to right that wrong is to increase the absolute amount spent on defense & security, since “that’s what gov’t is supposed to be primarily about”. So they increase it as a percentage, all the while neglecting the fact that the need for spending on defense & security is not a fx of the amount spent on those other things.

    Another reason is even dumber: to make the other team mad.

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