Where are the deficit hawks who want to trim defense spending?

WASHINGTON — Kentucky Republican Rand Paul is an eccentric candidate, but he has a couple of good ideas. One of them is this: Defense spending is not sacrosanct, and the military’s budget should be cut.

If Paul holds onto to that idea, it may well be worthwhile to watch him campaign for the U.S. Senate. There are very few Republicans (Paul’s father, the libertarian-leaning GOP Congressman from Texas, is among the few) who want to cut the Pentagon’s budget.

Quite frankly, there aren’t enough Democrats who stand against the military-industrial complex, either. Just last week, the House passed a defense spending bill that includes $485 million to develop a jet fighter engine that the Pentagon doesn’t even want. While supporters of a second engine model for the F-35 claim it would increase competition among defense contractors, the only thing likely to increase is the cost.

Nearly fifty years after Dwight Eisenhower famously warned Americans about the military-industrial complex, it still manages to hold its few critics at bay, to thwart the designs of budget-cutters and to exert a peculiar pull on the American popular imagination. Budget-busting weapons programs and $600 toilet seats simply don’t incite the wrath of voters in the same way as an unmarried mother buying groceries with food stamps.

In fiscal year 2009, according to the Office of Management and Budget, defense spending accounted for 23 percent of the federal budget, more than Medicare/Medicaid (19 percent), more than Social Security (20 percent) and more than the hated bank bail-out (four percent.) Any serious effort to address the deficit, then, will have to include the Pentagon. (See the chart below.)

But the Pentagon usually gets a pass — drawing steady criticism only from the fringe on the right (the Pauls) and the left (U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.) Americans have bought into the false idea that the military needs super-sophisticated, hyper-expensive technology to keep us safe from the enemy — even if the enemy is using civilian airliners and crudely-made car bombs. The war against al-Qaeda and its ally, the Taliban, is currently being waged largely with ground troops and Predator drones, which are manufactured at a tiny fraction of the cost of stealth fighter jets.

Still, the U.S. spends nearly as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. (See second chart at bottom.) The spending continues unabated partly because defense contractors have done a masterful job of turning weapons-production into a massive jobs program spread across several Congressional districts.

In a deep recession, with unemployment still hovering near ten percent, a federally-sponsored, taxpayer-funded jobs program isn’t a bad idea. But taxpayers reject the notion of a modern Works Progress Administration (WPA)— unless it’s run by Boeing or Lockheed Martin.

When Congress was trying to save the F-22, manufactured by Lockheed and assembled in Marietta, Ga., supporters didn’t even try to hide their job-related motives.  As U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The F-22 has played a great role in Cobb. It has meant a lot to families and to the local economy. I hate to see something that people have spent their career working on just fade away when we still feel that we need more of those planes.”

But Obama and Gates didn’t believe the Pentagon needed more of those planes, which they considered a Cold War relic, so the F-22 was finally killed despite a massive lobbying effort. Still, Georgia’s Republican senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, were able to get millions in defense-related earmarks for the state added to defense appropriations.

The Department of Defense budget for fiscal year 2010, passed last October, came to a whopping $680 billion, $16 billion more than Obama requested. The House defense bill voted on last week totaled $726 billion. That’s insane — and unsustainable.

If fiscal conservatives are serious about reining in spending, the Pentagon presents a fat juicy target. Paint a bull’s-eye on that defense budget.
350px-U.S._Federal_Spending_-_FY_2007
Global military spending-thumb-440x329

246 comments Add your comment

CT is a moron

June 2nd, 2010
7:42 am

Obama is an Idiot.

Tommy Maddox

June 2nd, 2010
7:43 am

Sure – trim out those contractors who produce the $4,000 toilets, but keep the systems that are going to keep us ahead of [and capable of zapping] the bad guys.

Wes

June 2nd, 2010
7:47 am

Good idea Cynthia. Medicare and Social Security probably need haircuts as well.

Bob

June 2nd, 2010
7:53 am

Those damn republicans, if and when dems take control of congress, they will cut this waste. If dems were in charge back through the years the country would have never heard of the $700 toilet seats. Lets put democrats in charge so those Billions go to education and the environment. Democrats would have never ever let BP drill for oil offshore and would not sit back and take big oil money.

Road Scholar

June 2nd, 2010
7:53 am

CT is a moron: Your comments are soooooo valuable.

Good morning CT. For the US to get out of this economy, we do need government to make investments. Wouldn’t it be more valuable to address public works, transportation, etc so when the money is spent, US citizens have jobs and the projects, when completed, are our legacy of the spending, adding to our quality of life?

Beowoulf

June 2nd, 2010
7:53 am

People like Tucker say “trim” defense spending. But they mean gut defense to keep affording the crazy spending increases the Obmacrats launched. The cost of government is up wildly since Obama took office. Time for a change.
Notice that Tucker does not discuss is dispartiy in costs between Islamic terrorism and fighting Islamic terrorism. Slipping a bomber into the US is dirt cheap. Fighting them is not. Maybe since Obama has apologized to everyone in the world, these other countries will now assume their fair share of defense spending. Good luck with that.

Rev Al Sharptongue

June 2nd, 2010
7:54 am

Defense definitely needs a cut, we spend more than the next ten countries combined on defense.

Why? Probably the same fear that you hear from cons about immigrants,blacks, and others of color. Some whites in this country have a fear of others plus they are afraid some of the dirt they have committed around the world will come back to haunt Amerikkka the great Satan.

Cowards who abuse others need a lot of weapons to feel safe. Its a white caveman paranoia thing most people of color will not understand

Peadawg

June 2nd, 2010
7:54 am

If fiscal conservatives are serious about reining in spending, the Pentagon, social security, and Medicare/Medicaid presents a fat juicy target. Paint a bull’s-eye on that defense budget as well as the handout budget.

Fixed your typo, Cynthia. No thanks needed.

Peadawg

June 2nd, 2010
7:56 am

“if and when dems take control of congress”

Y’all had control of Congress since 2006. Nice try though.

Granny Godzilla

June 2nd, 2010
7:57 am

Where are the deficit hawks who want to trim defense spending?

Take a look at Bob Gates.

He is urging the President to veto the Defense spending bill if the second engine for the F-35 is included.

godless heathen

June 2nd, 2010
8:01 am

I say trim the Defense budget. Trim all parts of the Federal budget. The world will be a better place.

Granny Godzilla

June 2nd, 2010
8:01 am

Add to the list, Barney Frank, Ron Wyden, Ron Paul and Walter Jones
who want to cut the Pentagon budget by 100B.

Cynthia is Sexy!!

June 2nd, 2010
8:15 am

I would like to see the name changed from Dept of Defense back to THE DEPT OR WAR!!!

Lets play offense instead of defense.

Sea Saw

June 2nd, 2010
8:17 am

Cut defense spending. Nuke Iran. Imagine how good voters would feel.

Watching the live cameras showing BP latest attempt to cut the pipeline is like watching a sequel to the movie “Saw”, man, exceptin’ thats every person on the Gulf Coast is trying to free themselves from the consequences of the spill. The grotesque puppet face on the screen looks like a voodoo witch doctor in Heath Ledger’s sloppy Joker makeup. “Hello, Gulf Coast hedonists: You have two choices. Do nothing and let this leak spill soil your beaches, or cut the pipe and make the leak worse in the forlorn hope you can cap it. That’s what you get for sunbathing, drinking beer and filming girls gone wild. You have one month to decide…..”

I’m scared, man. This whole episode makes me wonder if Katrina wasn’t somehow Obama’s fault too. I can’t believe Obama’s conscience would let him pilot a min-sub and place explosives a mile down that rig’s pipes. I wish to God I had listened to the Rushannities in 2008, and had voted for the Palin ticket. Proof? Rush knew within hours that Obama had caused the explosion. Rush has never lied to the American people. Plus how could Rush have known so soon unless’n it were true as a gold tooth.

That be’s a fact.

Jake.

Gracie

June 2nd, 2010
8:19 am

Best advice yet……………Cut Cynthia Tucker…………

A Lumpkin Resident

June 2nd, 2010
8:20 am

I am one of those deficit hawks who wants to trim defense spending. We currently outspend the next 10 or 20 countries (combined!) in defense spending. It is time to cut Europe and Japan loose.

tm

June 2nd, 2010
8:22 am

“The Department of Defense budget for fiscal year 2010, passed last October, came to a whopping $680 billion, $16 billion more than Obama requested”. If $680 billion is “whooping”, what do you call the $800 billion stimulus plan? A double whooper with cheese?

Gordon

June 2nd, 2010
8:25 am

Cutting defense is fine. But you’re never going to get on top of our financial problems unless there are major overhauls to both Social Security and Medicare. Those two plus interest on the debt are what is going to kill us.

kayaker 71

June 2nd, 2010
8:26 am

Of all of the countries mentioned by ct in her morning rant, there is not one that the majority of the worlds population would want to immigrate to. Don’t see them standing in line to enter China, most of SE Asia, the Middle East or Russia. They all want to come here. When you are the big guy on the block with something that everyone wants, you better stand ready to defend it with the latest and greatest. If not, you become like Sharptongue a racial cynic with little to no sense of reason. There’s a very good reason why we have floated to the top of the pile and it is not because our defenses are weak or that others in the world believe that they would have a shot at taking us out. Hell, we spend an equal amount on interest on the debt that Bozo and his gang have contributed to. I’d rather spend it on defending our country than on supporting a bunch of people on the dole. But, alas, they need defending too, now don’t they?

lol

June 2nd, 2010
8:27 am

Cynthia,

If you can design and build toilet seats that work in fighter jets for less than $600 let me know.

neo-Carlinist

June 2nd, 2010
8:28 am

to “CT is a moron”. Why did you use a capital “I” for idiot? Are you suggesting that idiot is a proper noun? I’d refer you to a dictionary, but my guess is you cannot read. So do us all a favor and comment about defense spending, or don’t comment at all.

seabeau

June 2nd, 2010
8:28 am

Reduce military spending by 50%.Cut off all military aid,bring our military home and secure our own boarders.

SouthernGal

June 2nd, 2010
8:34 am

How many young men and women will you put out of a job if you trim the defense budget?

Tech_Fan

June 2nd, 2010
8:34 am

What a freakin’ Obamanation the gov has become.

neo-Carlinist

June 2nd, 2010
8:37 am

the DoD/M-I complex has its very own “bubble” and in never pops. Every year it gets its very own stimulus package, nobody says a word, because we are told corruption, graft and waste are necessary to ensure our freedoms (as we deploy troops all over the world, yet cannot secure our own borders). I know I am whipping a dead horse, but we need to get rid of the $250,000/year “private contractors”. if we don’t have the manpower, resume the draft. the Military Industrial complex is like a tumor that has grown so big, to remove it would be fatal. I guess, in the language of deficit spending, bailouts, and stimulus packages; the DoD beast is “too big to fail”.

RGB

June 2nd, 2010
8:39 am

Another great idea to ensure that we are well on our way to becoming an also-ran nation.

The face of change….

obama's fault

June 2nd, 2010
8:40 am

To an extent, I agree. Cut military spending AND cut the other wasteful programs, starting with the healthcare overhaul which we now know is in fact, not going to cut the deficit as proclaimed by Obama. In fact, we knew it before but Congress had to rush through legislation without letting the CBO finish their complete analysis. We can also give back the remaining money from the stimulus…that would definitely help. Hold Congress accountable for establishing a budget and MEETING it. How? Cutting their pay when they do not come in under budget and instituting term limits. That would eliminate the pet projects that they push through for their own personal financial benefit(look how Congressmen become wealthy while they are in office) and for their reelection campaigns (Murtha and Byrd were/are great examples. They push/ed through so much pork to get reelected it should have been a crime.)

Kevin

June 2nd, 2010
8:42 am

Cynthia Tucker is blind as a bat. Iran is getting a Nuke, but lets cut defense? Why dont we cut the size of government? We are in a war! So lets cut Defense?

Clay

June 2nd, 2010
8:44 am

You are nuts. Do you know why Defense spending is so high and has to remain that way? Because if that part of the budget fails, the rest doesn’t matter. Think about it.

Kevin

June 2nd, 2010
8:44 am

As Iran is getting ready to wipe Isreil off the face of the planet, HEY! Lets cut Defense! What a great Idea!

neo-Carlinist

June 2nd, 2010
8:47 am

Kevin, CT may be “blind” but you’re hiding under your covers because somebody told you there is a boogeyman under your bed. likely a private sector company that markets anti-boogeyman devices, or perhaps your parents (politicians) who would like “peace”.

Chuck Allison

June 2nd, 2010
8:49 am

Nothing worth reading here, as usual.

Kevin

June 2nd, 2010
8:51 am

We have lost so many good men to road side bombs, that we still cant detect all of the time. So lets cut Defense! Road side bombs are made by idiots with a 4th grade education. Our military cant figure out how to detect these all the time, why? Lets cut defense!

obama's fault

June 2nd, 2010
8:54 am

I think some areas we can cut….
1. Pull the forces out of South Korea. They are unnecessary and will be nothing more than cannon fodder if the North did start attacking the South. We can still project our power using aircraft carriers.
2. Finish the job in Iraq and Afghanistan and get the hell out. Until then, we should be getting our oil for cheap.
3. Get the hell out of Europe. Those units were there because of the Soviet threat and to stabilize the region after WW2. The Soviets threat has been minimized and I think that after 65 years, the continent is pretty stable. Bring those troops home and save a boatload of money.
4. Invest more heavily in drone/predator technology and stop investing in the multimillion dollar man-piloted airplanes.
5. Focus our defense investments on protecting the homeland. If we cannot protect ourselves, then we are screwed.

ELVISINTHEHOUSE

June 2nd, 2010
8:55 am

Cynthia,now you know these white folk don’t like you.You can be the one who dismantle a nuke bomb to save the world and they still will hate you.But i like you,your a strong black woman and don’t care what hatred says.

Kevin

June 2nd, 2010
8:56 am

As growing government is trying to find a way to regulate what hand we wipe our butts with, Hey lets help our enemies kill us! Lets cut defense!

dirk

June 2nd, 2010
8:57 am

This would be a swell idea if we cut SS, Medicare, Medicaid, the new Nazi healthcare plan and quite a few departments and agencies, namely the Department of Education. If we make all these necessary cuts then we can most definitely cut the Defense budget.

Kevin

June 2nd, 2010
8:59 am

Wait a minute, Cynthia Tucker is black? That changes everything.

Alges

June 2nd, 2010
9:00 am

Shocking. A Neo-Comm that’s gungho with growing every aspect of government, except in the one facet they are actually supposed to be in, and that’s defense.

mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack the LIAR Obama - BEND OVER, Here comes the CHANGE!

June 2nd, 2010
9:00 am

Sure there’s room to cut defense spending, but don’t stop there. Let’s CUT the tax payer funded giveaways too. How about it Cynthia? Oh wait, we can’t cut tax payer funded social programs can we? mmm, mmm, mmm….BTW, How’s that oil spill clean up going Mr. Obama? CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN.

Granny Godzilla

June 2nd, 2010
9:00 am

Nazis Nazis here and there

Nazis Nazis everywhere

mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack the LIAR Obama - BEND OVER, Here comes the CHANGE!

June 2nd, 2010
9:03 am

Granny, it’s time for your meds. Please show me the Nazis, and while your at it, find me the Black Panthers.

neo-Carlinist

June 2nd, 2010
9:04 am

I’m going to stick with the “bailout” comparison. What did all the “fiscal conservatives” say when the banks were bailed out, or when the automakers were bailed out? They said, ‘let the market decide.’ They said; ‘we should not reward failure…’ I will be the first to concede that Social Security and Medicare are ‘failures’ but these programs have failed because of fraud (disability claims, motorized wheelchair scams, etc.) AND because the politicians have raided the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for both DoD and non-DoD pork. We have been “at war” for nine years. the DoD has “failed” and yet we continue to “reward failure”. Again, all you “fiscal conservatives” yammering about “entitlements” and “welfare” should spend a few days at the Pentagon – you know how pissed off you get when you see some “welfare mom” at Kroger buying Coca-Cola, Snickers bars, cigarettes and Twinkies with food stamps? Well, the “Snickers bars” and “Twinkies” sold by Lockheed-Martin and General Dynamics are $50-$75 million a pop. So, just as Coca Cola (and its shareholders) and Hostess Cakes (and its shareholders) do not really have an issue with welfare recipients using taxpayer $$$ to consume their goods, the DoD’s private sector vendors don’t care if we ever ‘win’ a war. In fact, it serves their interests to prolong wars, as opposed to winning wars. And in my own editorial version of the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war, spare me the mawkish “Memorial Day” nonsense about “the troops”. Those who “fight” wars and those who “wage” wars are not the same.

John

June 2nd, 2010
9:05 am

Let’s trim the affirmative action programs.

Richard Thompson Covington , Ga

June 2nd, 2010
9:06 am

This is the first article I have agreed with CT on in years. The Democrats have raped our country financially and with this unsustainable defense budget we prove to the world we are morally and well as fiscally unsound. We spend more than all others combined on military .. we try to protect the world from themselves. We ended WWII with nuclear weapons( avoiding the probable loss of 1 million American lives on a planned Japanese invasion just 3 month after the bombs fell )bringing about immediate surrender. We are still protecting this country today . They are a homogenous non diversified country what is the common thread with The USA now? We protect Israel a non diversified country which just attacked a peace keeping mission by our other friend Turkey. Massive death of innocents… they are now mounting a nuclear sub pointed towards Iran ” do they still need to be in our defense unbrella? South Korea and North Korea at brink of War with China routing for the North and US for the south. This has gone on for 60 years??

My parents were both career Army officers and served in the Pacific War arena and also served 4 years in the Korean conflict. The fought.. did their duty and left..Why are we pretending to protect the world when we cant protect our own shores from illegal infiltrators or an advancing tide of black oil which will destroy millions of jobs and the lives of millions of fish birds and sea animals?. When will our country take the initiative to protect our own shores as an invasion wave of brown and now black crude sweep into our country unabated?

Granny Godzilla

June 2nd, 2010
9:08 am

mmmmmmmm mmmmmmmmmmmm

Nope, no meds, a bit of soy for the hot flashes and valerian root tea

Nazis at 8:57 setting up death panels…..

RambleOn84

June 2nd, 2010
9:08 am

Finally, a (mostly) non-partisan article from Cynthia Tucker.

I agree wholeheartedly that “defense” spending should be cut.

I’d start by bringing home all the troops stationed in 140 countries around the world. 140 is not a misprint…there is absolutely no reason for us to occupy ANY country, let alone over 100.

The truth is, we are putting our country at more risk by stationing troops overseas. Those troops could be at home defending our borders.

We should not be instigating war, but rather protecting our own at home.

Obama billed himself as the “anti-war candidate” when he was on the campaign trail, but he looks just like Bush from where I’m sitting.

He renewed the “Patriot” Act, which allows him to listen in on the phone conversations of any and all Americans, and he continues to instigate war overseas, allegedly to bring “democracy” to people who don’t want it.

Obama is just another politician…Ron Paul 2012!!!

TM

June 2nd, 2010
9:11 am

Don’t worry about defense costs, they are going to ration out heath care services to reduce the budget. From the CBO director’s blog of 5/28 @ 1:10

“In considering the opportunities for achieving that reduction in spending growth, there are grounds for both optimism and pessimism. On the upside, there is considerable agreement that a substantial share of current spending on health care contributes little if anything to people’s health, and providers and health analysts are making significant efforts to make the health system more efficient. On the downside, it is not clear what specific policies the federal government can adopt to generate fundamental changes in the health system; that is, it is not clear what specific policies would translate the potential for significant cost savings into reality. Moreover, efforts to reduce costs substantially would increase the risk that people would not get some health care they need or would like to receive.”

Grumpy

June 2nd, 2010
9:11 am

I’ve said it for years – part of the reason Europe can “afford” their welfare state is becuase we pay to protect them.

The time has come to send them an annual bill for services rendered, or start significantly reducing our presence in the Eurozone.

Test

June 2nd, 2010
9:11 am

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