Daniel Horowitz proves that the sequester WILL cut defense spending deeply IN REAL TERMS


Now that the sequester has been triggered, many opponents of defense spending, including Ron Paul and his official blogger Jack Hunter, are propagating the lie that under the sequester, defense spending will not be cut and will merely see a slower rate of growth.

That claim is a blatant lie.

At RedState, Daniel Horowitz has masterfully disproven that lie with credible, actual data from the CBO and the DOD (albeit not free of a few factual errors). Writes Horowitz:

“During last week’s foreign policy debate, Ron Paul won accolades from the crowd when he professed that there are no real pending cuts to the military, just reductions in baseline spending. (…)

This statement is absolutely false.  Sequestration will indeed reduce military spending from ‘actual dollar amounts’ of FY 2011 spending levels over the next seven years.

In order to understand defense appropriations, we need to distinguish between the two categories of spending; base budget (ships, planes, weapons, troops) and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).  Using CBO’s numbers, roughly $703 billion (the DOD Comptroller’s office puts that number at $688 billion) was spent on total defense spending, with $552 billion allocated for base budget (true national defense) and the rest going toward the wars (OCO).  When preparing a 10-year budget for defense spending, OCO appropriations are hard to predict because our war spending vacillates with our foreign policy decisions.  Only the base budget figures are truly fixed into the budget, just like most domestic non-security expenditures.  Consequently, whenever we mention the estimated $1 trillion in defense cuts, remember that they are exclusively incurred by the base budget, aka the military, not the war budget.

Horowitz is right. Albeit Ron Paul and his minions often claim that they distinguish defense spending from war spending and only want to end wars and not to gut defense, they do want to gut defense and their policies, if enacted (God forbid) would do that. Furthermore, the sequester will cut THE BASE DEFENSE BUDGET, not the war budget.

Horowitz then pasted a table of defense spending projections under different scenarios (including sequestration) and continued:

“(…) Now, scroll down to the fifth row of data (highlighted in red), “if no savings result from Joint Select Committee.”  These numbers reflect the projected annual base budget appropriations under sequestration.  It is glaringly obvious that defense will incur real dollar cuts, not even accounting for inflation.  As we noted last week, under the proposed sequestration, defense spending as far in advance as FY 2018 will be lower than that of FY 2011.  If we factor in inflation, defense spending will not reach current levels again until sometime outside of the 10-year budget frame.  This is a veritable gutting of our military.

Overall, there will be $882 billion in inflation-adjusted non-baseline cuts to core military spending over ten-years (highlighted green).  Even if we fail to account for any inflation – a reckless proposition when budgeting for our primary constitutional responsibility – we will still cut $228 billion over the next seven years.  No, Congressman Paul, these are not merely baseline cuts.”

Did you get that? If the sequester is allowed to stand, defense spending:

1) will be cut by $882 bn in REAL TERMS over the next ten years compared to the FY2011 defense spending level;

2) will be cut by $228 bn from the FY2011 level even if you don’t take inflation into account;

3) will not reach, even in dollars NOT adjusted for inflation, the FY2011 level until FY2019; and

4) in real terms, will not reach the FY2011 level until sometime AFTER FY2023, i.e. AFTER the decade of sequestration ends.

Horowitz then continued:

“So where do Ron Paul and some good conservative/libertarian commentators obtain their data to suggest that defense spending will still rise over the next ten years, albeit at a slower rate (baseline reductions)?

The answer is they are including the war spending (OCO) in their calculation.  The CBO is forced to score current policy, irrespective of the likelihood of its implementation.  Therefore, they not only assume the continuation of the war over the next ten years, they anticipate increased spending on OCO.”

But the CBO’s projection (scoring) is wrong, because they assume that the Iraqi and Afghan wars will continue over the next years and therefore, as Horowitz says, “they anticipate increased spending on OCO.” This is wrong. All American troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of this year and Afghanistan by the end of 2014. As a consequence, OCO spending, which is a factor of the number of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, will zero out. It has already shrank from $160 bn in FY2011 to $118 bn this fiscal year, and according to a 2011 Congressional testimony by Secretary Gates (either before the SAC or before the SASC), it’s scheduled to shrink to less than $100 bn in FY2013 and continue to decline thereafter.

So over the next decade, the core defense budget, the OCO budget, and, as a consequence, the total DOD budget will all decline significantly IN REAL TERMS (as well as in inflation-UNADJUSTED terms) below their FY2011 levels.

Moreover, as Horowitz points out:

“If you include those phantom numbers into the equation, then you can arrive at the conclusion that overall defense spending will not decrease over the next ten years, even after sequestration.  However, this baseline is bogus because that money will never be spent.  In fact, such projected war spending is so universally disregarded that conservatives (rightfully so) will not count “the war savings” as real cuts.  The reality is that we will never spend that money, and as such, the baseline is irrelevant.

Moreover, as we explained earlier, 100% of the cuts will be incurred by the base budget, which supports our entire military infrastructure and weaponry.  It is intellectually dishonest to include OCO spending, which will never be spent (and even if it is spent, it won’t be affected by sequestration), into the equation, in an effort to obfuscate the unprecedented cuts to the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the military.  After sequestration, our base military spending will decrease to less than 3% of GDP, well below the historical post-WWII average.

Conservatives of all different stripes might disagree over the prudence of some of our military engagements throughout the world.  Nevertheless, any conservative who subscribes to Reagan’s three-legged stool model must support the preservation of the military itself.  It is the military itself that will suffer real spending reductions, not just baseline reductions.”

I’d say it even more bluntly: anyone who considers himself a conservative or wants to be called a conservative MUST support the preservation of the military itself and generous funding for it. The principle of a strong defense and generous funding for it is an inexcisable part, indeed a key tenet, of conservative philosophy. Conservatives may disagree over the wisdom of this or that war (myself, I oppose continuing the Afghan war and believe the Iraqi war was a mistake from the start), but defense spending MUST be preserved and America’s defense must be rebuilt and modernized. No person who disagrees with that has the right to call himself or herself a conservative. No person who supports any defense cuts has the right to call himself or herself a conservative.

And contrary to the lies of some stupid RS commenters who claimed that defense spending will be cut only in inflation-adjusted dollars, and that adjusting defense spending for inflation is real growth of defense spending, defense spending will be deeply cut (by $228 bn) even in inflation-UNADJUSTED dollars, i.e. even if inflation is not taken into account.

Of course defense spending SHOULD be adjusted for inflation. Defense spending “growth” BELOW the rate of inflation is not spending growth at all, it is a net defense spending cut. When defense is not funded, in real terms (i.e. in inflation-adjusted dollars), equally to the previous FY’s funding level, it takes a funding cut. Funding defense in line with inflation is not spending growth, it’s a real-term-spending-freeze.

Yet, many Paulbots (most of whom RS moderators ban quickly) are still lying that Ron Paul just wants to spend money on America’s defense and merely wants to end wars, and wants peace, while all other Republican candidates are warmongers. These are blatant lies.

Ron Paul does not want to invest in America’s defense, does not want to defend America, does not merely want to end wars, and his policies would cause more wars rather than peace.

Ron Paul supports deep cuts to America’s CORE DEFENSE BUDGET – the budget that pays for defending America itself, not for any military interventions abroad. The budget that pays for feeding, housing, training, salarying, equipping, and healing the US military on a day-by-day basis. (On top of that, he wants to completely end all OCO spending.) He has regularly sponsored, and has always voted for, disastrous defense cuts. Last year, he teamed up with strident liberals Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to cut defense spending by $1 trillion, eliminate dozens of crucial equipment programs, cut the force structure and the US nuclear arsenal deeply and unilaterally, and thus gut the military. This year, when the House was considering the FY2012 defense budget, he voted against it and voted to cut the Ground-Based Interceptor program – which protects ONLY the United States – by $100 mn. Ron Paul does not want America to defend itself at all!

So no, Ron Paul doesn’t just want to end wars and invest in defending America itself – he wants to gut America’s defense and leave America itself (to say nothing of the allies of the United States) completely undefended.

And would Ron Paul’s policies bring about peace? No. They would only bring about more war. Ronald Reagan observed that he witnessed four wars erupt during his lifetime, and NONE of them started because America was too strong. Ron Paul’s policies would gut the military and render it impotent, thus inviting aggressors to attack America and its allies. You can bet that China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran would all take advantage of that and attack the US and its allies. Military might. does not cause war. It keeps the peace. It is military WEAKNESS which causes war. It invites aggressors to commit actions they would otherwise refrain from. Look at pre-1950 South Korea, which was weak and which the US had not promised to defend and indeed indicated it would not defend. Look at pre-1939 and pre-1795 Poland. Look at pre-1938 Czechoslovakia. Look at pre-1941 America.

Ron Paul only PROMISES peace. He PROMISES that if the US would gut its military, withdraw immediately from Iraq and Afghanistan, withdraw all of its troops abroad, close all of its bases abroad, and play nice with its enemies, its foes would back off and refrain from aggression. But his promises are fairy tales. His policies would only cause war.

Unfortunately, many Paulbots have trashed the thread created by Horowitz with further stupid comments.

Daniel Horowitz’s full article is available at: http://www.redstate.com/dhorowitz3/2011/11/28/fact-check-ron-paul-is-wrong-about-defense-spending/

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