defense

Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are Staking Out the Same Ground, Just Not Exactly in the Same Way

paul and cruz

While there are varying opinions about just how much support Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul may — or may not — have in regard to running for president in 2016, those opinions begin to coalesce when it comes to what kind of policy position both men may be staking out in the run-up to that contest. Mostly because the men themselves are already taking a stand:

In the brouhaha last week over Sen. Rand Paul’s defense-spending amendment (with offsetting cuts), an interesting dynamic got a bit overlooked. And that is: Outside of the blatant trolling exercise of the budget-amendment process, when it came time to pass a budget resolution for 2016 and the next decade, the only GOP senators voting “no” were Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

Apparently Cruz would like to see a long-term reigning in of entitlement spending, Paul is more interested in making sure that whatever defense spending we alot funds toward, we are responsible in actually paying for it, rather than just kicking those costs down the road.

Radical stuff, folks. Making sure we can afford what we’re buying and actually paying for it. What madness is this?

Sequestration: An Inside Perspective

In two days, the sequestration axe will either drop, or it won’t.  Personally, I am about as close as you can get to the situation, and I have no idea how it will turn out.  While the “national security” argument against sequestration was gradually left behind, the arguments against the cuts have become increasingly economic in nature.  These arguments are problematic at best and disingenuous at worst.

A while back, I proposed a couple of ways to gradually cut more than sequestration does, therefore creating less pain in the current fiscal year; but as dieting often fails, cutting swiftly might be the only surefire method to actually cut spending.  Putting the cuts into perspective, as George Will did in his article this weekend, $85 billion from a $3.6 trillion budget, or 2.3%, is miniscule. The “draconian” cuts merely return us to 2006 levels.

I have been advocating deeper cuts for some time now, and as a defense contractor, am prepared to lose my job as a result (although I don’t expect to). I will try to be as objective as possible herein as I offer a couple of personal thoughts as we draw closer to the actuality of sequestration:

Sequestration Will Not Make the United States Less Safe

Written by Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

Will sequestration undermine U.S. national security? Hardly. Today, the Cato Institute released a new infographic putting these minor cuts in perspective.

Military spending will remain at roughly 2006 levels—$603 billion, higher than peak U.S. spending during the Cold War. Meanwhile, we live in a safer world. The Soviet Union has been dead for more than two decades; no other nation, or combination of nations, has emerged since that can pose a comparable threat. We should have a defense budget that reflects this reality.

To be clear, sequestration was no one’s first choice. But the alternative—ever-increasing military spending detached from a legitimate debate over strategy—is worse. We should have had such a debate, one over the roles and missions of the U.S. military, long before this day of reckoning. And politicians could have pursued serious proposals to prudently reduce military spending. Instead, they chose the easy way out, avoiding difficult decisions that would have allowed for smarter cuts.

Another speech from Obama, another huge disappointment

Obama gives State of the Union

Last night during a joint session of Congress, President Barack Obama gave his fifth the State of the Union address where he laid out his agenda for the next year. As was anticipated, the speech carried over the Leftist themes of last month’s inaugural address and was more aggressive in tone.

Despite recent GDP numbers showing that the economy contracted in the last quarter of 2012, President Obama started off the hour long speech by repeat a familiar line, explaining that “[t]ogether, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.”

After a couple of shots at Congress, President Obama spent a few minutes discussing the sequester, claiming that “both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion – mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.” Obama claimed, “we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.”

If only that were true. In Cato Institute’s response to the State of the Union address, Michael Tanner explained, “Let’s be absolutely clear — there have been no spending cuts under this President.”

In 2010, the first year that this President was responsible for the budget, the federal government spent $3.4 trillion,” noted Tanner. “Last year, the federal government spent $3.5 trillion, and for the first four of last year, we’re spending at a fast pace than the first four months of last year.”

Jennifer Rubin’s incoherent, contradictory attack against Rand Paul

It’s no secret that Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post blogger who writes from a “conservative perspective,” is not a fan of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). She had frequently written screeds attacking his foreign policy views, which she erroneously labels as “isolationism,” and his approach to politics.

Rubin is, strangely, obsessed with Paul. She’s also written missives against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), classlessly calling him a “jerk” because he got under the skin of some of his Republican colleagues for challenging them on gun control legislation.

But Rubin’s latest post on Paul is breathtakingly incoherent and downright silly. She assails Paul for comments he made earlier this week on Fox News about proposed sanctions against Iran.

“The Kentucky right-winger apparently didn’t learn anything from the reception to his speech at the Heritage Foundation earlier this year, which suggested containment as an option for Iran.” wrote Rubin on Tuesday. “In a Fox appearance, he came out with this muddled mess: Containment ‘shouldn’t be our policy. But I don’t think we should also say the extension of that, that we will never have containment as a policy. Containment actually, for 70 years, was a great policy.’”

House Republicans want to fund government above sequester levels

House Republicans may be moving ahead with a Continuing Resolution (CR) that defunds ObamaCare, but the measure they’re pushing will fund the government above levels set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The Budget Control Act (BCA) set in place $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years, which became known as the sequester. Those cuts, which are ultimately cuts to the rate of spending growth, went into effect in March after a temporary delay at the beginning of the year. Half of the cuts were applied to domestic programs, the other half to defense.

Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute, noted last week that the original CR backed by House Republican leadership would have spent $988 billion in FY 2014, rough $20 billion above the levels set by the BCA.

“The Congressional Budget Office’s score of the House Republican CR shows that defense is funded at $20 billion above the sequestration-included cap for fiscal 2014,” wrote DeHaven. “However, non-defense funding is actually $1 billion below it. Thus, it seems clear that the CR was intentionally written to force the sequestration-defense issue, which would kick-in in January.”

The BCA set the level for spending level for FY 2014 at $967 billion. The latest CR proposed by House Republicans, which defunds ObamaCare, would spend $986 billion, funding the government until December 15.

Despite Sequester, Federal Government has 27,000 Job Openings

Since the sequester took effect at the beginning of March, the Obama Administration has tried to play political games — including ending White House tours, threatening access to national parks, and furloughing air traffic controllers — all in an effort to make Americans feel the so-called “spending cuts.”

But despite the claims that the sequester — which is merely a small cut to the rate of spending growth over the next 10 years — is hurting Washington, the federal government has posted openings for some 10,300 jobs at a cost $792 million per year. That number is in addition openings the government was already trying to fill (emphasis mine):

The budget cuts known as sequestration were supposed to wreak havoc, forcing the shrinking of critical workforces including airport security officers and food inspectors.

But since sequestration kicked in March 4, the government has posted openings for 4,300 federal job titles to hire some 10,300 people.

The median position has a salary topping out at $76,000, and one-fourth of positions pay $113,000 or more, according to an analysis by The Washington Times of federal job listings.

Chatting with David Boaz of the Cato Institute

David Boaz

“I don’t think libertarians should subsume themselves in a conservative movement or even just in a fiscally conservative movement. [A]bsolutely libertarians can work with conservatives on fiscal issues.” — David Boaz

Editor’s note: The audio came out a little weird. We tried to work out the kinks, but didn’t have much success. Apologies.

On Friday, I sat down with David Boaz, Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute and author of Libertarianism: A Primer and The Politics of Freedom: Taking on the Left, the Right, and Threats to Our Liberties, to discuss the sequester, CPAC, and fusionism between libertarians and conservatives.

Since we did the interview on “Sequester Day,” I asked Boaz about some of the silliness and scare tactics that have been used in recent weeks as we counted down the days until the spending cuts took effect.

“A lot of the silliness, of course, is a dedicated campaign by the Obama Administration. They want people to believe that if you cut anything out of the federal budget the country will fall apart,” Boaz explained. “And we know that if they actually do the things they’re talking about — you know, we’re gonna lift the border patrol and let illegals flood into America and we’re gonna take TSA officers off and slow down all the airplanes — it’s a deliberate strategy.”

NRCC’s contradictions on spending

John Barrow

Yesterday, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) released two statements attacking Rep. John Barrow (D-GA), who has been a GOP target for the last few election cycles and has been the subject of periodic attacks since the end of the 2012. Needless to say, Barrow is on their radar in 2014.

However, after reading both of them back to back, I can’t help but be a little puzzled.

The first statement, which came in just before noon, slammed Barrow over his vote for the Budget Control Act. This bill was a result of the debt ceiling fight back in 2011 and was supposed to cut spending by $1.2 trillion at the beginning of the year. Fear of the so-called “fiscal cliff” delayed those cuts until March 1st.

The NRCC is trying to lump Barrow and Obama in the same boat. The statement called the cuts about to take place the “Barrow-Obama Sequester” and claims that “John Barrow’s continued support of Obama’s Sequester is about to hit hardworking middle class and military families in Georgia.”

Of course, it’s an inconvenient truth to point out that Barrow, a Democrat, joined 174 Republicans in voting for the sequester. Despite the fact that nearly 75% of their caucus voted for the sequester, some Republicans have been losing their minds over the defense spending cuts that are scheduled to take place. They’ve tried to substitute those cuts with non-defense discretionary spending, but have been unsuccessful in moving them through the Senate.

Are Republicans finally serious about defense cuts?

defense spending

Last year, Republicans in Congress strongly resisted cuts to defense spending, despite voting for the sequester, which would reduce defense outlays by $400 billions over the next 10 years. Mitt Romney, the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2012, frequently made calls to undo the sequester during his campaign.

But after being taken to the shed during “fiscal cliff” negotiations and the subsequent deal reached, Politico notes that House Republicans now seem to be looking seriously at letting the sequester happen, including the defense cuts.

On a hot July night six months ago, 89 House Republicans joined more dovish Democrats to do the unusual for Washington: cut $1.1 billion from the GOP’s proposed budget for defense in 2013.

Then came Hurricane Sandy and the New Year’s Day tax bill, and as many as 157 House Republicans voted Jan. 15 to endorse a much bigger cut, taking nearly $10 billion from the Pentagon to help pay for disaster aid. It was a huge swing by any measure and one followed this week by a Monday night Senate vote in which the overwhelming majority of Republicans endorsed their own across-the-board defense cut worth tens of billions of dollars over the next nine years.

Welcome to the new “dare you, double dare you” school of deficit politics — just a taste of what’s to come March 1 when much deeper spending cuts take effect under the sequester mechanism dictated by the 2011 debt accords.

House Republicans seem determined to let the cuts take effect if only as payback to President Barack Obama for humiliating them over taxes.


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