How The Sequester Torpedoed Conservatives’ Credibility

John Boehner

It was a mere tweet, but it summed up the entirety of the modern conservative movement:

It has everything: the source is the preeminent conservative “think tank” in DC, soon to be headed by Tea Party conservative and former senator Jim DeMint; lamenting about spending cuts; the laments are all about a government department that by all rights should not exist; and for good measure, it has a photograph. It shows precisely how the sequester had torpedoed conservative credibility.

We have heard relentlessly these past five years, ever since Obama was elected, that we need to cut spending. (Indeed, another Heritage article is a dorky little bit that specifically notes a “thrifty” House which demands that they have a balanced budget and avoid deficits.) Yet now that there is something which will cut—no, sorry, I can’t type that with a straight face; it will not cut spending, but merely slightly decrease the rate of spending—Heritage is up in arms about it.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Military Contractors) wrote the following in an op-ed:

By law, the sequester focuses on the narrow portion of the budget that funds the operating accounts for federal agencies and departments, including the Department of Defense. Exempt is most entitlement spending—the large portion of the budget that is driving the nation’s looming debt crisis. Should the sequester take effect, America’s military budget would be slashed nearly half a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Border security, law enforcement, aviation safety and many other programs would all have diminished resources.

How did the country find itself in this mess?

A “mess,” he calls it—because it cuts military spending. (As long-term readers are no doubt aware, I refuse to call the $700 billion we spend on the Pentagon a “defense” budget, as it is most certainly not that.) Why else would he use such terminology when, back in 2011 when he cajoled the entire House into voting for the sequester, he said:

“When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted,” Boehner told CBS News at the time. “I’m pretty happy.”

So you got 98% of what you wanted, Mr. Speaker…does that mean you wanted a mess with a cherry on top? Was the cherry the 2% you didn’t get, Mr. Speaker?

The absurdity of it all gets even worse when you realize that what we’re supposedly cutting spending on are things we shouldn’t be spending on at all. Department of Homeland Security? Oh yes, that department that runs the TSA that fondles people and makes three year old children cry—and which was totally redundant on the day it was born because we already have a Homeland Security department, the Department of Defense. And military spending? Why are we spending $700 billion a year on troops around the globe? So soldiers can twiddle their thumbs in Germany or soak up the sun in Greece? Or get involved in any number of pointless conflicts around the world where we have no business being? It’s like Boehner is standing up and saying “We’re cutting spending on forced toenail removal for old ladies! These cuts are intolerable!” What sort of sanity is that?

Of course, the rebuttal to this will be “but military cuts are disaproportionally large! We should cut more entitlements and domestic spending!” To this, again, I say, we don’t need to be spending $700 billion on the Pentagon in the first place. My colleague Travis Thornton even says we should start cutting at the Pentagon first, not last. And as for domestic spending…how on Earth are you going to convince people to swallow cuts in those programs if you refuse to swallow cuts to your programs?

The whole reason Republicans swept the midterm elections in 2010 was to cut spending. Now that there is a device out there that is going to reduce the increase in spending by 2.4%, and conservatives—who, remember, voted for this—are up in arms against it, why should anyone take them seriously? Whether they are conservatives in the House or conservatives elsewhere, these reactions to the sequester have just torpedoed any credibility they may have had.

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