Even after the sequester, there is a debate still going on inside the conservative movement over defense spending. With budget deficits expected to exceed $850 billion in the current fiscal year — this after four consecutive years of $1+ trillion deficits — fiscal conservatives are urging to keep the cuts to spending increases from the sequester. Hawkish Republicans, however, want to substitute or restore the defense spending cuts from the sequester with other discretionary cuts.
This issue was the subject of a panel yesterday on the mainstage at CPAC. The panel — “Budgets & Readiness: Can We Cut Defense Spending & Still Protect America?” — featured some bright minds from the think tank world and policy world.
- Mackenzie Eaglen, Resident Follow, Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies, American Enterprise Institute
- Van Hipp, Jr., Chairman, American Defense International
- Lucian Niemeyer, Staffer, U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee
- Christopher Preble, Vice President, Defense & Policy Studies, Cato Institute,
- Moderator: Donald Devine, Vice Chairman, American Conservative Union/Editor, Conservative Battleline
In what was likely one of the most anticipated speeches of the weekend, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who raised concerns about President Barack Obama’s drones policy last Wednesday during a 13-hour filibuster, offered conservatives a new brand of conservatism.
Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” played as Sen. Paul took the podium in an electric atmosphere where half the auidence was standing as a nod to the #StandWithRand theme. He noted that he only had 10 minutes to speak. “But just in case, I brought 13 hours worth of information,” Sen. Paul said as he held up two large binders to rousing applause. “I also came with a message for the President. A message that is loud and clear. A message that doesn’t mince words,” he added.
“Don’t drone me, bro!” someone shouted from the audience Before he went back into his speech, Sen. Paul replied, “Thats not exatly what I was thinking. However, I may have distilled my 13-hour speech into three words.”
“The message to the President is that no one person gets decide the law. No one person gets to decide your guilt or innocence,” he said. “My question to the President was about more than just killing American citizens on American soil. My question was about presidential power has limits.”
Sen. Paul hit on President Obama’s civil liberties record. “If we destroy our enemy but lose what defines our freedom in the process, have we really won,” he asked. “If we allow one man to charge Americans as enemy combatants and indefinitely detain or drone them, then what exactly is it that our brave young men and women are fighting for?”
That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane - Lenny Bruce is not afraid. Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn…A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies. Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline…It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine…” — R.E.M., “It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel Fine”
Dear world, I sit here writing from an secret underground bunker, the last refuge for my family as the world burns, the moon having turned red and the rivers running with blood, all because the intransigent Republicans refused to budge on (more) tax increases for the rich in exchange for a “balanced” approach of “smart” spending cuts by Obama. We now suffer from the “brutal” and “arbitrary” spending cuts of 2.2% that kicked in when the Republicans allowed the sequester to move forward.
I’ll write as long as I can until my family starves to death, but thirty gallons of water, a case of creamed corn, and a hundred packages of Ramen noodle soup go only so far with a family of ten. Well, nine. I secretly decided to sacrifice my 12- year old son and use him for food. A harsh move, granted, but necessary to prolong life for the rest of us. He’ll probably think I did it because I like him least, but that’s not true. It was a purely practical decision. He is a big, strong boy, with the most muscle mass. Seriously, the kid is as strong as a bull! I sure will miss him.
Written by Daniel J. Mitchell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Sigh. Even when they’re sort of doing the right thing, Republicans are incapable of using the right argument.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, has unveiled his proposed budget and he and other Republicans are bragging that the plan will balance the budget in 10 years.
That’s all fine and well, but good fiscal policy is achieved by reducing the burden of government spending, and that means restraining the budget so that federal outlays grow slower than the private sector.
It’s good to balance the budget, of course, but that should be a secondary goal.
Now for the good news. The Ryan Budget does satisfy the Golden Rule of fiscal policy. As you can see in the chart, federal spending grows by an average of 3.4 percent annually, and that modest bit of fiscal discipline is enough to reduce the burden of government spending to 19.1 percent of economic output by 2023.
House Republicans have begun the roll out their new budget, which, like their previous budgets, aims to reduce the national debt and tackle entitlement reform. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) previewed his budget plan this weekend on Fox News Sunday and this morning in the Wall Street Journal:
America’s national debt is over $16 trillion. Yet Washington can’t figure out how to cut $85 billion—or just 2% of the federal budget—without resorting to arbitrary, across-the-board cuts. Clearly, the budget process is broken. In four of the past five years, the president has missed his budget deadline. Senate Democrats haven’t passed a budget in over 1,400 days. By refusing to tackle the drivers of the nation’s debt—or simply to write a budget—Washington lurches from crisis to crisis.
House Republicans have a plan to change course. On Tuesday, we’re introducing a budget that balances in 10 years—without raising taxes. How do we do it? We stop spending money the government doesn’t have. Historically, Americans have paid a little less than one-fifth of their income in taxes to the federal government each year. But the government has spent more.
So our budget matches spending with income. Under our proposal, the government spends no more than it collects in revenue—or 19.1% of gross domestic product each year. As a result, we’ll spend $4.6 trillion less over the next decade.
With the sequester now in effect, House Republicans — who, despite their terrible messaging, have managed a win against the White House — are turning their attention toward a continuing resolution that would keep the spending cuts around, though it substitute some of them with cuts elsewhere in the budget:
Republicans controlling the House are moving to take the roughest edges off across-the-board spending cuts that are just starting to take effect.
Even as the military would bear a $43 billion cut over just seven months, the new GOP measure released Monday would give the Pentagon much-needed funding for readiness. It would also ease the pain felt by critical agencies like the FBI and the Border Patrol.
The effort is part of a huge spending measure released Monday that would fund day-to-day federal operations through September — and head off a potential government shutdown later this month.
The measure would leave in place automatic cuts of 5 percent to domestic agencies and 7.8 percent to the Pentagon ordered Friday by President Barack Obama after months of battling with Republicans over the budget. But the House Republicans’ legislation would award the Defense Department its detailed 2013 budget while other agencies would be frozen in place at 2012 levels.
“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.”
During his first presidential campaign in 2008, Barack Obama unloaded on then-President George W. Bush for his excessive spending. Obama said that running up $4 trillion in debt in eight years, as Bush did, was “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.” Obama made the deficit into a big part of his messaging during this campaign, telling Americans that they would see a net-spending cut in his first term.
It’s no secret that Obama has been terrible on spending, despite his tough talk and promises, but the price tag on his presidency has hit another sobering figure. According to CBS News via The Weekly Standard, $6 trillion has been added to the national debt on Obama’s watch:
Since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, more than $6 trillion dollars has been added to the national debt.
“Without fanfare, the Bureau of Public Debt at the Treasury Department quietly posted its daily debt report showing the total public debt of the U.S. government topped $16.687 trillion. (To be exact: $16,687,289,180,215.37),” reports Mark Knoller of CBS.
“On January 20, 2009, the day Mr. Obama took office, the debt stood at $10.626 trillion. The latest posting reflects an increase of over $6 trillion.”
EVERYBODY PANIC!!! Well, not really. Today should be just another day. But unfortunately, the rhetoric over the sequester — $44 billion in spending cuts in the current fiscal year (not the $85 billion that has been reported) — has been pushed into overdrive. Who would’ve thought that a 1% cut in the rate of spending increases would cause this much fuss? It’s not even a real budget cut, when it all comes down to it.
While President Obama is depending on the American public to side with him on forgoing the sequester, polls don’t seem to bear that out, according to Aaron Blake and Sean Sullivan at the Washington Post:
In Washington, Republicans and Democrats have been at loggerheads over how best to avert sequestration. In the rest of the country, a remarkably high percentage of Americans take a different view: Bring it on.
Thirty-seven percent of Americans said they would tell their member of Congress to let the deep federal spending cuts known as sequestration go into effect as scheduled, according to a Gallup poll released on Wednesday, while nearly one in five had no opinion. A plurality (45 percent) said they would like to see Congress pass a measure to avert the cuts, but that’s hardly a decisive figure that reflects the alarm bells the Obama administration has been sounding the last couple of weeks.
Editor’s note: While the larger point of the post is a good topic for debate, Fortenberry was a bad example. According to the scorecards released by the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, Fortenberry hasn’t been a friend to the taxpayer on fiscal issues. Thanks to Matt Hoskins for bringing this to our attention.
Author’s note: Yes, kudos to Matt Hoskins. I’ve added an update below.
Last week, Rod Dreher at the American Conservative magazine wrote about John Fortenberry, a Republican congresscritter from Nebraska who is considering a run for the seat of retiring Republican Senator Mike Johanns. What has Dreher annoyed —understandably — is that the Senate Conservatives Fund has come out against Fortenberry. Why? Because Fortenberry is “too liberal” on taxes:
“We can already say that we won’t be able to support Congressman Fortenberry if he runs. His record on spending, debt, and taxes in the House is just too liberal. Republicans in Nebraska deserve better,” said Senate Conservatives Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins. SCF, which was started by conservative Jim DeMint and involved itself in the 2012 Nebraska Senate GOP primary, is looking to identify a candidate it can get behind, Hoskins added.
Dreher argues that’s completely bunk. In an interview with the Congressman last year, he wrote: