Romney defense spending plan takes away credibility on deficit

Mitt Romney

During tonight’s debate, Mitt Romney is expected to tout a budget plan that would reduce non-defense discretionary spending by 5%. That may sound appealing to conservatives, who have slammed President Barack Obama failure to restrain spending. In reality, non-defense represents 20% of the federal budget, at the most, around $42 billion in spending. That’s really not much to write home about.

Romney’s aides have recently said that he will pursue a different foreign policy course than former President George W. Bush. That’s sounds great on the surface, until you recall that Romney said that he could unilaterally invade Iran. If that isn’t neo-conservative, I don’t know what is. Perhaps equally troubling for those of us concerned about the budget deficit, as Jack Hunter recently explained at the American Conservative, are Romney’s plans increase defense spending:

Something Romney promised with his winning personality Wednesday night—deficit reduction—is also something hard numbers indicate he cannot deliver. If Obama said anything true it was this: “When you add up all the loopholes and deductions that upper income individuals are currently taking advantage of, you don’t come close to paying for $5 trillion in tax cuts and $2 trillion in additional military spending.”

He added: “It’s math, arithmetic.”

Romney protested that he was not asking for $5 trillion in tax cuts (too bad) and in the Governor’s defense, Obama’s relentless griping about “loopholes” and “deductions” for “upper income individuals” could mean something—or it could be the same, tired, class warfare drivel the Democrats have been peddling for as long as I’ve been alive. On this, I trust Obama’s accuracy as much as Hulk Hogan’s sincerity.

But that “$2 trillion in additional military spending” is something Romney did not even attempt to protest. Whatever hope I had that Romney would represent a dramatic improvement over Obama was dashed—not during Wednesday’s debate—but last May, when CNN reported:

Mitt Romney is campaigning on a platform that emphasizes less spending, smaller deficits and renewed fiscal responsibility. But in one budget area, Romney is running the opposite direction. The former Massachusetts governor wants to increase defense spending by leaps and bounds. By one estimate, additional spending would exceed $2 trillion over the next decade… The additional spending really piles up in future years.

The need to cut military spending is something I have emphasized in columns for so long and so often that at least one of my editors has asked me to stop talking about it. Indeed, if there’s an issue I could be accused of being fanatical about, the dire need for cutting “defense” spending is certainly it.

But Romney’s platform proves my point. If our annual deficit is between $1-1.5 trillion, and neither candidate is really serious about cutting entitlement costs which are far, far greater—how can anyone even pretend they’ll reduce the deficit while increasing spending by $2 trillion on our military?

If our soldiers are not paid enough, do not receive proper benefits, or do not have necessary weapons or essentials it is not because we don’t spend enough on the military. We currently spend more on our military than we ever have—and most of that money goes to fund a massive bureaucracy that has little to do with our actual defense.

Perhaps Obama is hitting Romney on the wrong thing. Rather than slam him on his tax plan — which does make economic sense, despite claims to the contrary — Obama should ask Romney where he plans to come up with the money for increased defense spending. That doesn’t fit the typical class warfare rhetoric that Obama often employs on the stump, but it actually makes sense to knock Romney here for what would like contribute to more debt and deficits.

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