Zbigniew Mazurak's Blog

A blog dedicated to defense issues

Rebuttal of fiscal-only-conservatives’ attack on the Ryan Plan

Posted by zbigniewmazurak on March 31, 2012


After Congressman Paul Ryan released his budget plan, the Path to Prosperity, the left predictably attacked it for cutting entitlements and sparing defense spending from the sequester. What was less predictable and less forgivable was the attacks on Ryan and his plan from the right, specifically, from fiscal-only-conservatives who don’t think it’s cutting spending deeply enough and fast enough and who don’t like the fact that it spares defense from sequestration and funds defense fully (fully funding the government’s #1 Constitutional DUTY! Gosh! What a heresy!)

Those fiscal-only conservatives who oppose the Ryan Plan are dead wrong, and they owe Paul Ryan an apology.

AmSpec’s James Antle reports that:

“The Club for Growth opposed the proposal on the ground that it (…) waives most of the mandated spending cuts required by the failure of the supercommittee.

“The Club for Growth urges Republicans to support a budget that balances in the near future and complies with the Budget Control Act,” Club president Chris Chocola, a former GOP congressman, said in a statement.”
A FreedomWorks blogger gave the plan a more mixed assessment. “Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t really try to balance the budget or specify a single cabinet agency for elimination,” complained Dean Clancy, who went on to say, “Like last year’s Ryan budget, the new version takes Social Security and defense off the spending-cut table.””

In other words, the C4G and FW want to keep the sequester and don’t care what exactly does it cut or how deeply – or, even worse (and more likely), they want it EXPLICITLY to cut defense spending deeply, even though it has already been cut deeply: over 50 crucial weapon programs closed in 2009 and 2010, further ones in January 2011, $178 bn cut out of defense in FY2012 under the last round of Gates’ “reforms”, the first round of BCA-ordered cuts ($487 bn), and of course, the New START disarmament treaty, which requires deep cuts in America’s nuclear weapons and their delivery systems (which cuts have imposed ADDITIONAL significant costs on the cash-strapped DOD, because dismantling nukes and their carriers costs a lot more than maintaining them, even for many decades).

By his own admission (see his GWU speech of 4/13/2011), Obama had cut $400 bn out of defense programs by April 2011, and the first tier of the BCA requires further defense cuts by $487 bn, which means that even without sequestration, defense spending will not return to its FY2011 levels until FY2019 at the earliest. See the graph below.

All of these cuts were mandated before the sequester even kicked in.

The sequester, if allowed to stand, would cut defense spending by a FURTHER $600 bn over a decade, ON TOP OF, not instead of, ALL THE CUTS already made and scheduled.

And yet, the C4G and FW support it and demand that the cuts fall on defense instead of other government programs?

Why does it matter to them where the axe falls? By Clancy’s own admission, the Ryan plan would cut entitlements “in order to make room for more military spending”, so if it cuts spending elsewhere, why don’t they like it? Why does it matter to them that defense spending specifically be singled out for deep cuts? Why do they want to gut defense?

There is ample evidence, along with repeated statements by all Joint Chiefs and Obama’s own SECDEF, not to mention many retired officers and independent defense analysts, that sequestration would gut the military.

Combined with the first round of BCA-ordered defense cuts and with the shrinkage and eventual zeroing out of GWOT spending resulting from withdrawal from Afghanistan, it would result in a total military budget cut of 34% – more deeper than those implemented after the Cold War and far deeper than those that followed the Vietnam War.

Those defense cuts gutted the military, forcing the US to rebuild it later down the road at a great fiscal cost. What makes anyone think that this round of defense cuts will be any different?

Defense spending amounts to just 15% of the total federal budget, yet it is slated to shoulder 50% of the budget cuts mandated both by the 1st tier of the BCA and by the sequester. (GWOT spending accounts for another 4% of the TFB but is not subject to sequestration.) Why has it been singled out so unfairly for such deep, disproportionate cuts?

Moreover, equating defense spending with other kinds of federal spending is ridiculous, un-conservative, and against the Constitution. Providing for a strong defense is the #1 Constitutional DUTY of the federal government (something that self-styled “armchair constitutionalist” Dean Clancy still doesn’t understand, and neither does the C4G), one that it may not shirk away from even if financial circumstances are tough. It was also considered one of the highest duties of the federal government and of any statesman by the Founders. OTOH, the vast majority of other federal spending is unconstitutional as it is not authorized by the Constitution. Equating defense with these unconstitutional, wasteful programs is plainly ridiculous.

A prudent budgeter, or a genuine constitutional conservative, would not advocate cutting everything equally across the board without looking at what you’re cutting. No, you look at every government program and function, line by line; you fully fund Constitutional federal functions first; and then you strike out funding for anything wasteful and/or not authorized by the Constitution. This means that the Edu Dept., the DOE, the DOL, the DOC, the DOT, the DHUD, the USDA, the DHHS, and the DHS must go, along with all federal subsidies for anything, and there must be a slow but steady transition away from entitlement programs.

Don’t get me wrong. I share the dismay about the Ryan plan not cutting total federal spending deeply enough and fast enough, and not proposing to close a single federal department. Those concerns are valid. But there is NOTHING in the Ryan Budget that says that further spending cuts cannot be implemented on top of those included in the package. There is nothing that would lock the Ryan Budget’s spending levels in perpetuity. After passing the Ryan Budget Plan, Congress would be free, and strongly encouraged, to make further spending cuts.

But if the Congress can’t even cut spending as modestly as Ryan’s plan would, how can it be expected to cut spending deeper? It can’t. Fiscal conservatives are contradicting themselves on this one.

If the Ryan Budget Plan does not get passed, more ambitious spending cuts plans have zero chance of passing, and if it cannot pass, it’s irrelevant.

Furthermore, it’s clear that the Club For Growth and FreedomWorks both want defense spending to be cut deeply, with the sequester, ON TOP OF all the defense cuts already implemented and scheduled, and they don’t care that defense is the #1 Constitutional duty of the federal government. Apparently, they don’t consider it a legitimate government function at all. They are not satisfied that the Ryan Plan (and the RSC’s Budget Plan) would cut domestic spending by the same amount by which the sequester would cut defense (in other words, spending will still get cut by the same amount, just not defense). They clearly want to gut defense and don’t care about the consequences.

This is highly irresponsible, and deeply un-conservative, as well as antithetical to the Constitution and the Founders’ wishes. They have no right to call themselves conservatives.

And by opposing the Ryan Plan and urging Congressmen and Senators to vote against it, they are allying themselves with the far left.

For all those who are not hell-bent on cutting defense but want to see spending cut deeper than Ryan wants to: calm down. There is nothing in his plan that says spending cannot be cut even deeper. Once his plan is passed, we can build on that progress and reduce federal spending more deeply.

Those fiscal-only conservatives who oppose the Ryan Plan are dead wrong, and they owe Paul Ryan an apology.

The Ryan Plan is a win-win for everyone… well, everyone except the Democrats, special interest groups, and all those who want to specifically gut defense.

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