Election 2016

Hugh Hewitt: "Any Republicans who vote against higher defense spending should be fired"

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Radio host, Chapman University Law professor, and Republican-touting author (A Mormon in the White House?, Painting the Map Red, If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat, etc.) Hugh Hewitt wants to make something perfectly clear:

Those GOP representatives who vote against upping Pentagon spending this week are at the top of a list that deserve to face off against an Iraq or Afghan war vet when votes are cast in primaries next spring or summer. Reckless endangerment of American national security via showboating votes against Pentagon funding should earn a GOP representative a quick ticket to enforced retirement.

Hewitt continues:

Small government grinds who point to stupid expenditures in the Pentagon in the tens of millions of dollars betray a fundamental, indeed disqualifying myopia about a budget of more than $600 billion yet still less than 3 percent of the nation's GDP. Without the military and its vast budget there is no America for long. It will be attacked. It will be humbled. Americans will die in great numbers.

The Pentagon isn't the most efficient agency in the world. It is, however, the best military in the world. I joke on the radio that when it comes to interviews, "I'm not perfect, I'm just the best." That's not a joke when it comes to the American armed services. The best security is worth the cost and worth as well the occasional inane program or maddening cost overrun.

Mercatus Center/Veronique de Rugy

I don't know how many voter divisions Hewitt has, but WTF, man? Have you been vacationing off-planet for the last dozen-plus years, as America waged more than two stupid and lost wars? There's a reason why Ron Paul, the namby-pambiest anti-interventionist would-be presidential candidate since George McGovern, pulled the most donations from active military types in 2012. It wasn't because he was pushing for more troops to be stationed overseas, either. (Side note: both McGovern and Paul served in the military, unlike many hawks.)

News flash: We were attacked despite (because?) outspending every nation on the planet on defense and, more important, we were "humbled" in Iraq and Afghanistan despite dropping tons of bombs and trillions of dollars in pursuit of ill-defined, incoherent attempts at nation-building. Yes, Americans did die in great numbers on 9/11 and that carnage needed to be avenged and prevented from happening again. But because of stupid, thoughtless policies pursued by a transpartisan crew of failures ranging from George W. Bush to Condeleezza Rice to Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton, we spilled a river of American blood in far-off lands that we leave no better and almost certainly worse off than we first blew up innocents attending weddings and shopping at markets. And let's not even talk about casualties that Iraqis and Afghanis suffered, right, because we were liberating those folks from despotic regimes, so, well, you know, they get what they deserve and you can't make an omelette without breaking a couple of hundred thousand yeggs, amirite?

Mercatus Center/Veronique de Rugy

I get that after the midterms, GOP loyalists are probably feeling pretty smug about themselves and totally upbeat about 2016. Yet if the Republican Party is interested in putting together the sort of broad-based coalition that will not only allow it to potentially win the White House but also govern effectively and not speed up the bankrupting of the nation, this sort of command to spend more money on "defense" is hugely off-putting.

And not just to pansy-assed libertarians like myself, who remain scandalized that Republicans will blather on and on about how the government can't be trusted to deliver the mail without screwing up or flushing hard-earned tax dollars down the crapper but YOU BETTER NOT EVER TALK ABOUT CUTTING DEFENSE SPENDING YOU HEAR ME RIGHT NOW, YOU GODDAMN CHICKEN BASTARD?!?!

No, it's not just libertarians who are calling attention to the sort of rally around the flag pole sript that Hewitt's touting. Sean Davis of The Federalist writes

I think it's more accurate to say that someone who mindlessly demands more cash betrays a "fundamental, indeed disqualifying myopia" about how the budget process actually works and how an effective national security policy should be designed. In a rather remarkable tell, Hewitt attempted to cast aside all criticism of Pentagon waste by characterizing it as "in the tens of millions of dollars." He also slurred those concerned with waste as "small government grinds." I hate to break it to Hewitt, but if he thinks waste within any federal agency is just a few million dollars, he simply hasn't been paying attention.

Davis illustrates his point by pointing to the F-35 fighter jet, an exercise in completely wasting $1.5 trillion for a plane that will be obsolete by the time it actually starts working the way it's supposed to.

And over at National Review, Kevin Williamson has made the case for sequestration on military spending:

Republicans are looking to lift the military half of the sequester in the hopes of shunting a few hundred billion dollars more into the gazillion-dollar stream of appropriations that flows through the war-fighting apparatus. The Democrats' alternative is lifting both sides of the sequester. Until somebody can explain why we're mothballing ships while minting admirals, the sequester should stay — every last farthing of it.

If you've got the time, take a few minutes to scroll through "Defense Spending and the Economy," a 2013 study by Harvard's Robert Barro and the Mercatus Center's Veronique de Rugy (also a Reason columnist). When confronted with the uselessness of defense spending to, you know, actually increase national security beyond a basic threshold level, proponents of ever-rising defense spending (here's looking at you, American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation) often start yammering about the "stimulative" effects of buying more guns and building more tanks. OK, OK, they'll acknowledge, maybe we don't really need to be spending four times what the ChiCom are spending, but at least this spending grows the economy, right? World War II got us out of the Depression and all that jazz, says Professor Krugnuts.

Barro and de Rugy surveyed the literature and found the opposite is true. Defense spending financed by debt (and it mostly is) shrinks the economy like a cold swimming pool shrinks George Costanza:

The existing studies found that a dollar increase in federal defense spending results in a less-than-a-dollar increase in GDP when the spending increase is deficit financed. Combining this with a tax multiplier that is negative and greater than one, the authors estimate that over five years each $1 in federal defense-spending cuts will increase private spending by roughly $1.30. 

And when you think about it for a second, it makes an obvious kind of sense, doesn't it? Government spending tends to crowd out private investment and going into debt to finance current outlays raises the specter of increased taxes in the future, further depressing investment and spending.

Our conclusions are consistent with the historical pattern in which the US economy responded well to much larger defense cuts [than those imposed by sequestration]. Particularly compelling is the economy's strong performance after the massive post-WWII demobilization. But a similar pattern applies to more recent defense cutbacks. From 1987 to 2000, under the first Bush administration and the Clinton administration, the share of defense spending in GDP fell from 7.4 percent of GDP to 3.7 percent. The average growth rate of real GDP over this period was a respectable 3.3 percent per year, despite the 1991 recession.

Read the whole thing here.

And watch this 2012 video, "3 Reasons Conservatives Should Cut Defense Spending Now!," to understand that reducing the amount of dollars shoveled at the Pentagon need not compromise national security.