Donald Trump

Trump to Demand $54 Billion Hike in Military Spending, But "Austerity Makes the Best Auditor"

Trump says government has to learn to do more with less, but the military doesn't.

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White House

President Trump promised a "historic increase in defense spending" in remarks to the National Governor's Association (NGA), suggesting concomitant cuts in non-defense spending (excluding entitlements) would cover the increase. Trump described what would be his first federal budget proposal as a "public safety and national security budget."

The Trump budget is set to propose a $54 billion dollar increase (nearly 10 percent) in defense spending, to $603 billion, and a cut in non-defense discretionary spending to $462 billion, according to White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney.

Mulvaney described the budget, which will be submitted to Congress next month, as an expression of Trump's campaign agenda. "It will show the president is keeping his promises and doing exactly what he said he was going to do," Mulvaney said, according to The New York Times. "We are taking his words and turning them into policies and dollars."

Mulvaney's December appointment to lead OMB was hailed by budget hawks, as he had been a vocal advocate for spending cuts while a member of Congress. As recently as last summer, Mulvaney campaigned on the idea that military spending should not be exempt. "If we are going to balance the budget, then all spending needs to be scrutinized, including the Pentagon," Mulvaney wrote in a Facebook post, according to the Greenville News. Mulvaney's congressional Facebook page has since been deactivated.

Mulvaney's 2016 Democratic opponent attacked him for his position on military spending cuts, saying the 2011 sequester that Mulvaney supported, which slowed down the rate of growth of military spending, meant Republicans had "gutted the military when it was needed the most." The position illustrates the difficulty any remaining budget hawks will have in resisting Trump's budget proposals or offering politically-feasible counter-proposals.

Trump's proposed massive military spending increase cannot even be reasonably interpreted as an extreme first offer meant to spur negotiations, because there is little will in Congress for spending cuts of any kind, let alone those of the military. That's unfortunate, because, as Benjamin Friedman wrote in Foreign Affairs in 2011, "austerity is the best auditor." Responsible, managed cuts in military spending could improve military readiness by forcing much-needed reprioritizations. The president's proposed military spending increase is unfortunate, especially given Trump's early focus on a number of military contracts he considered overpriced. Those contracts are a kind of microcosm of the wider military budget. Increasing military spending will only make such contracts more bloated.

Outside of the military, Trump appears to understand the value of spending cuts in increasing government efficiency, or at least to have a grasp on the rhetoric. "We're going to do more with less and make government lean and accountable to the people," Trump said in his NGA remarks. "The government must learn to tighten its belt, something families all across the country have had to learn to do," Trump said, "unfortunately, but they've had to learn to do it and they've done it well."

As William Ruger, the Charles Koch Institute's vice president of policy and research explained at a CPAC panel this weekend, conservatives have a tendency to treat the military bureaucracy as an "honorary member of the private sector," ignoring that it was prone to the same waste and inefficiency as the rest of government. Throughout the presidential campaign, many conservatives questioned Trump's credentials. He certainly shares the blind spot of many conservatives when it comes to military spending, and seems to have helped Mulvaney develop one of his own.

NEXT: A.M. Links: Trump Will Address Joint Session of Congress Tonight, Wilbur Ross Confirmed as Commerce Secretary, SpaceX Plans Moon Mission

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  1. On deck,

    The libertarian case against cutting government spending.

  2. conservatives have a tendency to treat the military bureaucracy as an “honorary member of the private sector,” ignoring that it was prone to the same waste and inefficiency as the rest of government.

    It may not be “ignoring”, but rather “accepting for a noble cause”. 8-(

    1. Nothing more noble than killing for Ol’ Gory, and generals playing golf on 6 continents.

    2. Except, what’s noble about it?
      After all, if piling trillions of dollars and thousands of young lives into endeavors that have terrible results, then what is noble about it to the dead americans and the dead in foreign lands.
      To me, drug wars and wars on terror are defined as noble by politicians who get to praise dead young guys who have fought for nothing more than increased instability in a terrible parts of the world. The sacrifice is used as a tool to keep people angry enough to support foreign adventures which show no real benefit to the tax payer.

      What is the definition of insanity?

      1. Coming to Reason.com day after day expecting to see a libertatarian take on the issues of the day.

        1. Is that not what goes on on this site?

          1. No, apparently this site is infested with KOZMO KUCK FAGGITZ and PROGTARDS pretending to be libertarians until they can get a job at Slate or something.

            1. That and a bunch of innumerate liberaltarians that fall for the red meat of “military industrial complex” every single time while slapping themselves on the back that they’re smarter than the average bear.

              Assuming that trump’s budget goes thru, defense spending will be below 4 or 5% of gdp, depending on what you want to include. The last time the US truly had a balanced budget was in 1957. Defense spending was over 10% of gdp and 3mil ppl were in uniform. Now it’s less than 1.5mil. SS alone is about 1.4x the defense budget. Medicare alone the same size as the defense budget. Medicaid alone is about 2/3rds the defense budget.

              But just keep repeating M-I-C over and over and reality will meet the narrative some day. Honest.

              Cue the cosmotards that interpret this to mean that I said that there are no efficiencies to be had in defense spending.

              1. How much was it in inflation-adjusted dollars?

                1. So, since I didn’t get a response to this question, I’ll go ahead and give what I think is the correct answer and will call on you (all of you) to correct any error here.

                  There were more resources (adjusted for inflation) devoted to the military in 2012 than any other time in the past 50 years. Normalizing this number by GDP doesn’t capture the enormity in actual spending, it only tells us what our capacity to afford it is. To congress’s (Obama’s?) credit, military spending has been reduced since that time, although it is still incredibly high.

                  “M-I-C” becomes relevant when you’re discussing the most expensive government program, one that has reached a 50 year high and has the highest outflow of funds to a single private entity.

              2. Others will keep repeating, as you say, “M-I-C,” and you people (echoes of ol’ Ross Perot) will keep whining about “entitlements.”

            2. Oh, quite the contrary, “Cynical Asshole” (incidentally, a very apropos appellation for you, but I’d suggest adding “Dumb,” too), as this so-called “libertarian” site is teeming, and infected, with retarded, wannabe tough guys hiding behind the libertarian label because it sounds a lot more palatable than “conservative Republican.” In reality, most of you “assholes” are a bunch of Trump The Hump-loving, war-loving, economic nationalists with great empathy and sympathy for the “religious right,” who wet your little panties every time you watch the right-wing hacks and toadies on Faux News. Just come out of the closet and admit the truth, asshole.

        2. LOL, why would you expect that?

  3. Trump could have done some great stuff. Our biggest albatrosses, entitlements and military spending/wars/ military complex are off limits however.

    All of his other cost savings proposed, eliminations of bureaucrats, and regulations dialed back will be but a drop in the bucket comparatively.

    If he does not realize that the wars have to stop immediately, bring them home, and stop the bleeding and spending, then he is just another idiot politician.

    1. he is just another idiot politician.

      That’s something I’ve concluded a long time ago. Take away the bluster, the unpolished rhetorical style, and the disregard for convention, and he’s not really any different than any of the rest.

  4. It will be very, very interesting to see what Tax and Spend Trump tries to cut. But there’s no way in hell that he’s able to get broad sweeping cuts through congress. Another year in the red, no doubt. I think it’s very likely that Trump demonstrates a historically high, FDR-like level of spending increase.

  5. This budget is sounding like a Praetorian Budget. Money for the gun totters and cut everything else.

  6. This fucking moron is the President. Fuck everyone who voted for him. Fuck the RNC for allowing it to happen. Fuck Congress for not having already impeached Dump, Pence (the ‘conversion therapy success story’), Ryan, and McConnell. They all have horrific conflicts of interest and have trampled our Constitution.

    Fuck the DNC for torpedoing the actual preferred candidate, Sanders. A preemptive fuck you to the Bernie-haters. Democratic Socialism works.

    1. You just had to shoot yourself in the foot with that last statement. This is why we can’t have nice things brah.

    2. Yea it’s working out great in Europe and South America. If it’s not total economic collapse like Greece and soon Italy, it’s mass food shortages like Venezuela.

      Politicians suck at managing other people’s money. When will that sink in for you?

      1. Bernie Brahs like to stroke their boy buns.

      2. Well, if you count only Greece, sure. Sweden, Finland, and other countries are doing fine. It’s almost as if the world is more complex than a one line philosophy everybody seems to espouse lately.

        1. Sweden has been progressively becoming LESS socialist since the 70’s – lowering taxes by half, reducing restrictions on business and opening up trade. Denmark, another country supposed socialist success story, ranks higher on the Heritage Foundation’s free trade index than the US.

          No, central planning does not produce better economic results than true capitalism. That’s just economics. It isn’t oversimplification anymore than “water is wet” is an oversimplification.

  7. Trump, in the end, is nothing more than a crony capitalist windbag.

  8. The position illustrates the difficulty any remaining budget hawks will have in resisting Trump’s budget proposals or offering politically-feasible counter-proposals.

    What remaining budget hawks? Rand Paul? Justin Amash? Thomas Massie? Mike Lee? Jeff Flake? That’s basically 5 guys. They can open up a burger joint. Big woop.

    He certainly shares the blind spot of many conservatives when it comes to military spending, and seems to have helped Mulvaney develop one of his own.

    I’d cut Mulvaney a little slack here. He’s the director of OMB and therefore answers to the president.

    OTOH, you know else was just following orders? /sarc

    1. Trump will need 50 of 52 Republican Senators to pass his budget plan since no Democrat will vote for anything he proposes. Paul, Lee and Cruz alone could kill it.

      1. But Paul won’t. He’ll “vote strategically” against his supposed principles.

        1. I’m surprised you picked Paul out of those three. Paul has proven to be the most willing to go against his own party on things – surveillance, foreign aid, the drug war, etc. Much more likely to see Cruz sell out.

        2. Neither will Lee or Cruz.

      2. When is the last time Congress passed a President’s proposed budget intact?

        1829?

  9. Borrow and spend is MUCH better than tax and spend.

  10. Navy does need new ships, we probably need a new line of helicopters, our UAS fleet is very vulnerable to near peers, etc. Right now, a big cost driver in DoD is personnel costs from the decade of wars. I have no issue with DoD getting roughly 4% of GDP. I would also like for them to spend their money more wisely (something I know lots about). We can probably trim some global obligations but turtling is not an option.

  11. The DoD has a rather large breast cancer research grant program (not for veterans — not military related whatsoever). Same with prostate, pancreas, lung, brain, etc. He can reduce funding to NIH but the additional DoD resources could balance things out for many of us in biology and medicine.

    Every now and then pork works in somebody’s favor.

  12. The Trump budget is set to propose a $54 billion dollar increase (nearly 10 percent) in defense spending, to $603 billion, and a cut in non-defense discretionary spending to $462 billion….

    Does this mean that he’ll be cutting back on the Border Patrol and ICE as well?

    I also take it he’ll also be cutting his own spending (e.g. fewer trips to Mar-a-Lago; once a month say, instead of once a week) as well as a 10% cut in the salaries and expense accounts of senators and Congressmen.

  13. This would be half mistake, half progress. Cut taxes: Yes. Increase military spending: No.

    As a former military officer who handled the unit budget, I can say with first-hand knowledge and absolute certainty that the amount of money wasted in the military is gargantuan. I can also say that the system is DESIGNED to fail. Any unit that doesn’t spend its allocation cannot get the same amount the next year. So, for example, if you’re at a radar site that has to go on diesel whenever there’s a thunderstorm in the area (as is often the case in Florida), you can burn thousands of gallons of diesel fuel. But if you have fewer storms, you are on backup less often and the bill for diesel is less. Under the current system, if you just turn the money back in (save the taxpayers money) NEXT year, you are punished if your costs rise. The “safe” course of action is to find something – ANYTHING – to spend the money on. A 100-year supply of brooms. A thousand-year supply of pencils. ANYTHING. And keep in mind that every unit in the military is doing the same thing at the same time… wasting money desperately to spend everything that was allocated.

    It happens every year.

    I would not be surprised if 10% of the National Debt was due directly to military waste in the last month of each fiscal year since 1950.

    1. So THAT’S how the US military can burn through $600 BILLION per year every year! They aren’t just spending in salaries for soldiers, new aircraft carriers, and the occasional war.

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  15. Trump’s proposed massive military spending increase cannot even be reasonably interpreted as an extreme first offer meant to spur negotiations, because there is little will in Congress for spending cuts of any kind, let alone those of the military. That’s unfortunate, because, as Benjamin Friedman wrote in Foreign Affairs in 2011, “austerity is the best auditor.” Responsible, managed cuts in military spending could improve military readiness by forcing much-needed reprioritizations. ???? ?? ?? ????? ??? ??????
    ???? ?????? ?? ?? The president’s proposed military spending increase is unfortunate, especially given Trump’s early focus on a number of military contracts he considered overpriced. Those contracts are a kind of microcosm of the wider military budget. Increasing military spending will only make such contracts more bloated.

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