Recently, the FreedomWorks.org group published a long list of reasons why Mitt Romney is a fiscal liberal who should not be nominated for the Presidency. That list was good and factually correct – except one part. Namely, the part in which they claimed that “despite the efforts of fiscal conservatives to put all spending on the table”, Romney opposes defense spending cuts.
Romney does oppose defense spending cuts (and rightly so), but the claim that defense spending has so far been off the table and that its opponents merely want to “put all spending on the table” is a blatant lie.
Defense spending has always been on the table. I will not even bother to again narrate about the late 1940s, the late 1950s, the 1970s, and the 1990s, when defense spending was cut repeatedly and radically, year after year, and I’ll limit the narration in this post to the 2000s.
During the Bush era, defense spending did grow significantly overall, from 389 bn USD in FY2001 to 538.30 bn USD in FY2009 in real terms. Still, even then defense spending was not off the table. In 2005, Bush ordered the DOD (including every service) to cut its budget by billions of dollars in real terms, and threatened to veto the defense budget if the Congress would pass a larger defense budget than what he proposed. Even Clinton never threatened to do that.
Under President Obama, the DOD has seen continued budget cuts. In FY2010, the DOD was forced to close or cut over 30 weapon programs which, had they been pursued to completion, would’ve cost, collectively, $330 bn by the time they’d have been completed. In FY2011, several further programs were closed, the defense budget was cut in real terms, from $534 bn in nominal terms ($562.34 bn in real terms) in FY2010 to $528.9 bn in FY2011 under the CR. And the most recent deficit reduction statute passed by the Congress obliges the DOD to cut its core budget by $350 bn over a decade (i.e. on average $35 bn per year). Moreover, Obama has proposed to cut defense spending by $400 bn, not $350 bn, over a decade. Moreover, before leaving the DOD, Bob Gates had to make plans to cut defense spending by another $78 bn (not counted in the previous sums) over 5 fiscal years.
So the claim that defense spending is currently on the table and that fiscal conservatives are now trying to put it on the table is a blatant lie.
And what about the claim that fiscal conservatives are trying to “put all spending on the table”?
There are undoubtely some fiscal conservatives like Sen. Coburn who are indeed trying to put all spending on the table. But many so-called fiscal conservatives are really trying to put only military spending on the table. They are not trying to put any other kind of spending on the table and do not really want to cut domestic spending. They merely want to whack the military budget.
So I don’t buy the “fiscal conservatives are putting all spending on the table” garbage.