Panetta calls for tax hikes, not defense spending cuts

As you know, Republicans in both chambers of Congress are beside themselves over the prospect of defense spending cuts. They’re trying to scare Americans into believing that we’ll be somehow vulnerable if any defense spending is cut by any amount. However, Veronique de Rugy notes that, in the grand scheme of the budget outlook, these cuts amount to next to nothing — roughly $54 billion annually.

So yesterday, I received an e-mail blast from Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee pointing to SecDef Leon Panetta’s agreement with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who had stated that the national debt “threaten[s] our national security”:

That’s all well and good, but Secretary Panetta’s solution isn’t just to cut spending in other areas. He much like President Obama, wants tax hikes.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday stepped back into the bitter debate over the nation’s debt, arguing that lawmakers should close the budget deficit through tax increases and changes to popular programs like Social Security rather than through additional cuts in Pentagon spending.

“No budget can be balanced on the back of discretionary spending alone,” he told the Senate Budget Committee. “I strongly believe that all areas of the federal budget must be put on the table – not just discretionary, but mandatory spending and revenues.”

“Revenue” in that context is code for tax increases, while “mandatory spending” is code for programs like Medicare.

The fact of the matter is that, at over $700 billion, defense spending is currently at its highest levels since World War II and, according to the Mercatus Center, the United States accounts for “about 45% of the world’s $1.6 trillion total…more than the next fourteen largest military spending countries combine.”

Defense spending will have to be cut, much like entitlements will have to be reformed; otherwise, we will see massive tax hikes. Of course, Republicans are trying to play to neoconservatives and their otherwise pro-war base. I get that, but in doing so they’re losing any high-ground they may have on the deficit issue.

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