Ted Cruz, Military Spending, and the "Liberty Vote"

Can Ted Cruz promise to bust the budget over military spending and still appeal to former Paul supporters?


Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), in a presidential campaign speech in South Carolina earlier this week, made it very clear that, despite any old Tea Party talk about shrinking government, he as president intends to spend more, more, and more on America's military establishment. His military spending goals as percentage of GDP amount to a plan that, if applied this year, would have meant a military budget 23 percent higher than its actual $583 billion.

Benjamin Friedman at Cato points out the purely fiscal implications of this Cruzian dream. 

Cruz's plan produces a massive increase in military spending: about $1.2 trillion over what would be Cruz's first term and $2.6 trillion over eight years. Details on the chart are at the end of this post.

Cruz is unclear on how he'll fund the buildup….The implication, standard among those trying to look fiscally responsible while throwing money at the military, is that you cut administration to pay for force structure. But Cruz doesn't sustain the pretense beyond attacking the Pentagon's "bloated bureaucracy and social experiments." He never identifies what bureaucracy—commands, budget line or contracts—he'd axe. He doesn't explain how to overcome the Pentagon's tendency to increase overhead during buildups or betray concern about the meager results of past efforts to shift tail to tooth….

Cruz, of course, will not fund his buildup through taxes. Instead, the plan mentions selling federal assets, unspecified spending cuts, and tax revenue juiced by four or five percent annual growth. Wishful thinking seems a fair summary…

As Friedman further points out, none of Cruz's spending or restructuring proposals are matched in any intelligent way with an overall plan for military strategy and purpose, in effect "spending a lot more to do what we are now doing. Like Jeb BushMarco Rubio, and even Dick Cheney, Cruz's rhetorical assaults on the Obama administration's defense policy belie underlying agreement with its premises."

Politico has more details on Cruz's clumsy attempts to seem both a fiscal hawk and a military hawk, noting that he used to show more anti-spending backbone on the matter, at least occasionally:

[His] record on national security has come under fire in the presidential campaign. Rubio has criticized the Texas senator's votes against the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes funding for the Pentagon, as well as his support for a budget from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would have slowed defense spending.

At the same time, Cruz supported an amendment from Rubio himself last year that would have boosted defense spending by hundreds of billions over the next decade….

The biggest challenge he or any other Republican president would face is that the Budget Control Act — which limits both defense and non-defense discretionary spending — kicks back into effect next fall unless Congress acts to change the spending limits.

Even the Obama administration's budget, which Republicans say is decimating the military, includes $100 billion more than the spending caps allow over the next five years.

The very concept of hard spending caps would have to be sacrificed for Cruz's hat tip to an endlessly growing military-industrial complex independent of any larger vision of purpose or strategy for that military.

Will this affect Cruz's quest to win over portions of the "liberty vote" that one might presume would have gone to Rand Paul, were he still in the race? In a likely attempt to appeal to them, Cruz has been outreaching to largely federally-owned Nevadans with a call for divesting federal ownership of its land in favor of the state government out West. Alternately, in another slap in their face, as Ed Krayewski reported yesterday, he's on the government's side against Apple and our privacy when it comes to the "decrypting the San Bernardino terror cell phone" argument.

Joel Kurtinitis wrote a long, detailed personal report that ran on Medium about his turn from Paul to Cruz in Iowa this year. Most of the critiques he and some fellow ex-Ron Paulites had of Rand Paul had to do with his being insufficiently protective of issues important to the evangelical right, like gay marriage, and for a general sense he'd "gone establishment" with his endorsements of other Republicans not beloved of Tea Party types.

Kurtinitis says that Cruz's push for a government shutdown over Obamacare really caught their attention; then after some personal encounters with him on the stump in Iowa he and some other ex-Paul folk concluded:

Cruz spoke our language, and held his own on a wide range of liberty issues including state nullification, the military-industrial complex, and drug policy. There were some areas of disagreement, and his appeal to us wasn't grounded in ideological purism, but in common policy goals. Still, even those who still had reservations came away with more respect for his candid approach and willingness to engage us directly.

For those of us who hold to ideological consistency as a value in both politicians and voters, one might think that Paul people who do value the Paulite perspective on "the military-industrial complex" might be disillusioned by this latest Cruz move.

While actual rigorous social science on this question of the Ron Paul vote of 2008/12, what they believed and wanted, and where they have gone, remains nonexistent as far as I've seen, certainly some observable facts of reality give reason to believe that lots of them have shifted to Cruz, at least in Iowa—and also that lots of them have shifted to Donald Trump (as seems more likely in New Hampshire, where nearly all areas Paul won in 2012 went Trump and only about 15 percent of primary voters seemed to be first-timers) and even Bernie Sanders, as some anecdotal evidence suggests.

Trying to hold such voters to intellectual coherence in a manner typical for a movement libertarian is likely a waste of time. Still, to the extent that anyone attracted to Paul was thus attracted for a couple of his primary characteristics—desire to curb government spending in general and military overreach specifically—Cruz isn't exactly making himself desirable along those lines.

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  1. We're at the stage where candidate policy proposals are in the hands of campaign strategists. GOP primary voter focus groups have indicated that Obama has decimated defense spending and that must be reversed with gusto.

  2. You gotta pick somebody. You know Johnson isn't going to win, and you know the consequences of a Clinton or Sanders win would be disastrous. You can't just tear down every single Republican candidate with a chance to win, or whoever gets the nomination might be so damaged that they can't compete in the general election. Let's face it, Cruz is the best we're going to get.

    1. You gotta pick somebody.

      "None of the above."

      1. Picking no one is saying you'll be okay with whoever gets elected.

        1. So how do you say you won't be okay with anyone who ever gets elected?

          1. Hemlock?

        2. Does picking Cruz say I'll be okay with him getting elected?

        3. I'll let Herbert Spencer do the replying here:

          In affirming that a man may not be taxed unless he has directly or indirectly given his consent, it affirms that he may refuse to be so taxed; and to refuse to be taxed, is to cut all connection with the state.

          Perhaps it will be said that this consent is not a specific, but a general one, and that the citizen is understood to have assented to everything his representative may do, when he voted for him.

          But suppose he did not vote for him; and on the contrary did all in his power to get elected some one holding opposite views ? what then?

          The reply will probably be that, by taking part in such an election, he tacitly agreed to abide by the decision of the majority.

          And how if he did not vote at all?

          Why then he cannot justly complain of any tax, seeing that he made no protest against its imposition.

          So, curiously enough, it seems that he gave his consent in whatever way he acted ? whether he said yes, whether he said no, or whether he remained neuter!

          A rather awkward doctrine this.

          1. He could leave the area where this occurred.
            Maybe to find somewhere that would allow him the safety and security of the U.S. without having to pay for it.
            His consent was through not leaving.

        4. No, it doesn't. I needn't say anything more, because you didn't explain how picking no one magically means you'll be okay with anyone. That logic is completely broken.

    2. Yellowstone Supervolcano. It will eventually blow us to hell, may as well get it started sooner than later.

    3. You gotta pick somebody.

      I pick "not attempting to oppress my neighbors."

    4. You gotta pick somebody.

      No I don't.

      You know Johnson isn't going to win, and you know the consequences of a Clinton or Sanders win would be disastrous.

      I'm still voting for him, and I know that, but that doesn't mean a Cruz presidency wouldn't be disastrous in different ways.

      Let's face it, Cruz is the best we're going to get.

      That's the saddest statement I've seen since the 2012 election when the "A VOTE FOR JOHNSON IS A VOTE FOR OBAMA!" brigade was here in force.

      You can't just tear down every single Republican candidate with a chance to win, or whoever gets the nomination might be so damaged that they can't compete in the general election.

      If they're awful, they deserve to be torn down.

      1. That's the saddest statement I've seen since the 2012 election when the "A VOTE FOR JOHNSON IS A VOTE FOR OBAMA!" brigade was here in force.

        I think that brigade is still here.

        1. Nikki, they'll get you to vote for trump if it's the last thing they do.

          1. A vote for Trump is a vote for Obama.

            1. A vote for Trump is a vote for Adam Lanza.

      2. That's the saddest statement I've seen since the 2012 election when the "A VOTE FOR JOHNSON IS A VOTE FOR OBAMA!" brigade was here in force.

        That never happened. I have been told repeatedly that never happened.

        1. It's also not happening now.

        2. Next you guys are going to say that Reason isn't in the pocket of the Democrats, and I know that's just crazy talk.

        3. Can you prove it happened? Show me the posts.

          While we're waiting, let me tell you what Reason's modus operandi was a decade ago, based only on my own memory and perception of their blog posts.

          1. Can you prove it happened? Show me the posts.

            You want people to go searching for random comments that make some poorly-thought-out claim for you? Is it so inconceivable to you that people could say dumb shit in a comment section, especially when similar nonsense is being said right now in this very comment section?

    5. No, I won't face it. If you actually think Cruz is the best, you're deluded. The man's a statist so-con dickwad. On top of that, when he smiles, he is the creepy uncle cliche.

        1. No I don't feel anything for any duke basketball player.

          1. My feelings for basketball players are secret and dark.

        2. There's a bit more life to Mr. Allen's smile.

          God, I forget about Cruz's nose sometimes. Seriously, we CANNOT elect somebody so ugly and creepy to the presidency; can you imagine staring at pictures/videos of that face for the next four years?

          1. Seriously, we CANNOT elect somebody so ugly and creepy to the presidency; can you imagine staring at pictures/videos of that face for the next four years

            But enough about Hillary Clinton.

            1. Nah. I figured Hillary was the last person I wanted to see on TV and blogs for 4-8 years, but Cruz may have her beat. I couldn't stand to see that mug plastered everywhere, every day, for years. It's unsettling.

              1. Hi there, Rubio supporters.

          2. Well, you've demonstrated a sound, reasonable method for eliminating a leader.
            So, who's pretty enough for you?

    6. You gotta pick somebody.

      Well sure, you gotta pick just one if you went cheap and bought the Chip-o-matic, Jr. Some of us thought ahead and bought the Chipblaster 2000 so we're not limited to just one.

      1. +1 Good Start.

      1. Once the actual general election starts, I have a feeling this sort of thing is going to get really bad.

        1. Are you saying a large proportion of commenters on Reason will automatically vote for anybody with an R by their name because "at least s/he's better than the other guy" (though the R guy is probably just as bad but in different ways)? I NEVER...

    7. It is crazy to think that the conservative thinking will win the general without moderate R-s and independents in the voting block. Yet, that is how we are voting in the primaries! People had better realize the folly, or we will end up with a Democrat win, again!

  3. Sounds like a solid plan to me dude. WOw.


  4. Ted Cruz and everyone else who wants to increase military spending should be required to respond to questions regarding the F-35. This story on the program is telling.

    Texas-based Lockheed hopes to sell more than 2,000 of the advanced fighters to the United States and nearly a dozen allies. Likely to be the largest single defense project in history, the American portion of the program could cost an estimated $1 trillion over the entire course of the plane's lifetime.

    Of America's 50 states, 46 have a stake in the JSF program. Democrats and Republicans alike both fear being labeled as weak on defense or unfriendly to defense contractors, Wheeler added.

    1. Whenever I hear about DoD overspending, the F-35 is the first thing I think of...

      1. Between Osprey and Lightning II, USMC dreams of making amphibs like fleet carriers and their correspondent bureaucratic scheming in the political/MIC world to make that dream happen have driven aviation defense procurement for past twenty years, and it has been a clusterfuck.

    2. "Texas based". Yup, Cruz will be all for that program.

  5. OT:
    I was just notified that I am eligible for a phone upgrade.

    I can choose between an Apple iPhone 6 or a Samsung Galaxy 6.

    Any recommendations as to which I should pick?

    1. Someone better answer me, or I swear I'll vote for Trump.

      1. good he'll make your cellphone great again.

        1. He'll keep illegal immigrants from sneaking into my phone?

    2. I got the apple 6, it's okay. I probably use a 1/30 of it's capabilities if that. I don't even no where I would begin with the galaxy 6 as I'm a troglodyte when it comes to tech.

    3. I have the 6+ and like it, but I've had iPhones since the 3 so I can't compare.

    4. I think it depends on if you are already stuck on an OS. I wouldn't mind switching to Android, but I'd have to re-buy tons of apps and content I already have from Apple.

      1. Yeah, I'd think this is the main thing. If you're not already heavily into Apple, an iPhone 6 means you have start fooling around with itunes, their app store, all that junk. And if you are already into Apple, may as well stick with it. I'm an Android guy, but they are nifty phones.

    5. The Galaxy S7 is coming out March 11, so if you go Android you may want to wait two more weeks.

      1. It's my work phone, so I will get what the company says I will get and like it.

    6. Depends. Do you have any data you might not want the government to be able to get to?

    7. I've had both and it's like this (although to a lesser degree as Android grows up):

      iPhone: Like living under a fascist regime, but not in a "you'll be shot if you step out of line" kind of way. The OS is inaccessible and you use it "their way". Everything works and works well as long as you don't expect too much. You don't have a lot of choices, but the operating system is safe and extremely smooth and functional. The app store has fewer choices (no porn), and fewer free choices, but the apps are less likely to crash your phone. Remember, there is one operating system for one piece of hardware...all controlled by Apple.

      Android: The libertarian's phone. You can much more easily "root" your phone since the OS is accessible. While this can make things fun, you also run the risk of messing things up badly. The app market is robust and full of apps that would cost money on the iPhone...but caveat here: The apps for the most part are safe, but you can run into some malware if you're not careful. Androoid's open to any hardware manufacturer, all of which are running essentially the same operating system (albeit with different skins and firmware). This means that some apps are going to run differently, depending upon the phone. If you go with Android, go with their flagship - Samsung Galaxy, since most apps will be designed and tested for the Galaxy.

      Now all that said, I go with the iPhone. It works when I need it to.

  6. Whenever I hear a candidate speak, I keep forgetting that spending isn't originated in Congress any longer.

    1. You know, you'd think if the military was worth a shit they could set their own budget.

    2. It's clearly Obama's fault for submitting budgets to Congress that were rejected.

  7. he as president intends to spend more, more, and more on America's military establishment.

    Then he will never, never, never have my support.

    1. Cruz clearly states his plans caps military spending at 4% of GDP, so it is increasing proportionally to what would be made in taxes despite that statement making it appear that he would just keep increasing military spending as more of the budget rather than a set amount.

    2. Cruz clearly states his plans caps military spending at 4% of GDP, so it is increasing proportionally to what would be made in taxes despite that statement making it appear that he would just keep increasing military spending as more of the budget rather than a set amount.

  8. It's perfectly fair game to point out that Ted Cruz is going to spend more, not less, than current levels overall. That said, I think you could say that about literally every remaining contender, and probably about Rand Paul too. There's still a pretty good argument Cruz is the least worst R or D, and then it's just the usual semantic arguments about whether least worst with a chance beats better than least worst without a chance.

    1. To be clear, I don't know the answer to that even for myself and I'd be pretty arrogant to presume to know for everyone else.

    2. If he does follow through with is cuts to subsidies and welfare and medicare/medicaid programs, on top of repealing the affordable care act, how is that increasing spending overall? Military spending during the Bush years was around 4% of GDP and increased since then up to about 5% until the madatory cuts. So if he only repeals the affordable care act and leaves everything else alone, he will just return spending to the low end of the bush years, which is still a decrease.

  9. Cruz calls for keeping Military spending at 4% of GDP. Current GDP is 16.77 trillion, making his military budget 670 billion. Putting a cap on military spending that grows and shrinks with GDP is much better than the current method of keep increasing spending regardless of economic condition or tax revenue. This piece is acting like he is just going to ignore all other government spending and increase military spending on top of it when he regularly says he is going to push to get rid of all subsidies and institute a flat tax that will free up markets. When your graph has two years of actual changes in data and then a straight line for 15 years, it reduces the believably of the information.

      1. Meh, forget the Socratic method.

        As I understand it, this "cap" that Cruz is calling for will be implemented by... bursting the current "cap."

        1. So, he wants to bust a cap on America?

      2. His plan is calling for military spending to be 4% of GDP, so the cap is that it can not go over 4% of GDP.

    1. Does this cap include the "emergency" slush fund?

  10. This article seems to forget that well thought out plans and policies that makes sense are heresy this election. Nothing is talked about less than what will work and why.

  11. The only thing that really matter is if the person elected will actually cut government.

    Government spending is terrible in 2 main ways (and several other ways I won't mention here):

    #1, It takes from those who make wealth and gives to those who destroy wealth.
    #2, Every dollar the government spends is $1 less liberty we have and $1 more evil that is accomplished. It's actually that simple of math.

    Here's what I do, I'll vote for anyone who I actually think, given what they've said and done, and the historical record, will cut government spending. I don't think Cruz will due to the historical record and what he's said, though he may end up doing so anyway due to the fact that his own party hates him (if one party has power in Washington, more is spent than otherwise would be).

    If I were to think that Cruz actually would cut government at all I would vote for him, because less evil would be done by government. If anyone here thinks that government would actually be cut under Cruz, then I don't agree, but I think their reasoning is valid.

  12. Seeing as how "provide for the common Defense" is a requirement under the Constitution for the Federal Government, and that the Obama Administration has been draining our "seed capital" for the last 7 years; making a larger "investment" in the defense of the nation is not only prudent, but not all that dissimilar to the process we underwent in the Reagan Administration. Then, we had the Evil Empire to defeat - today it is something just as evil and, unlike the Soviets, completely unrestrained.

  13. How the hell is capping military spending at 4% GDP considered "budget busting"?

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    All we need is a mobile or PC with a very good internet connection. There are many applications by which we can enjoy videos, our missed programs, live streaming etc.

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