Adam Berkland, a legislative assistant to the libertarian Americans for Prosperity organization, has recently written a completely ridiculous, factually-wrong screed that calls on Congress to keep the sequester, even though by his own admission it will make “not-so-insignificant cuts” in defense spending. His entire article is a litany of blatant lies. Here’s my rebuttal of it (posted as a comment under his article on the DC website):
Utter garbage written by an ignorant hack who works for an utterly discredited libertarian organization. His “facts” are blatant lies.
“the defense budget will see a not-so-insignificant cut of 14 percent over the next 10 years.”
Actually, defense spending will see a HUGE cut of over 20% PERCENT in real terms over the next 10 years.
“First, the sequestration follows upon a massive buildup in defense spending over the last 10 years. According to figures from the Congressional Budget Office, federal defense spending increased by more than 40 percent between 2001 and 2010, even after taking inflation into account.”
WRONG. Over the last 10 years, there has been no “massive buildup in defense”. Defense spending grew by LESS than 40% (actually, by ca. 37-39%) from FY2001 to FY2010 in inflation-adjusted dollars: from $390 bn in FY2001 to $560 bn in FY2010 (in real terms; the nominal-term figures were $297 bn and $534 bn, respectively). And this growth took a decade. Moreover, this modest growth in defense spending did NOT lead to any military buildup, let alone the one that happened during the Reagan years. Most of the extra defense dollars were soaked up by the Afghan and Iraqi wars, while modernization was delayed again, and the procurement holiday of the 1990s was continued. The force structure did not increase at all, equipment inventories shrank significantly, and many modernization programs were cut or closed outright (e.g. the Comanche, the Crusader, the F-22 and the Zumwalt class). Moreover, this guy conveniently ignores the fact that from 2009 to today, even before the sequester was triggered, we witnessed 6 rounds of defense cuts: the closure of over 50 crucial equipment programs in 2009 and 2010, the disastrous New START treaty (ratified by the Senate during its lame-duck session), the $178 bn cuts and efficiencies produced by Bob Gates in January 2011, the April CR (which cut defense spending in real terms to $528.9 bn), and the first round of the defense cuts ordered by the debt ceiling deal ($46.5 bn).
“The White House’s Office of Management and Budget has separately calculated that in real terms we spent more on defense in 2010 than in any year of the Cold War, including the Reagan buildup years.”
But the OMB was WRONG. That’s because the defense budget for FY2010, not counting spending on Iraq and Afghanistan, was significantly SMALLER than Reagan’s last 3 defense budgets: for FY1987 ($606 bn), FY1988 ($570 bn), and FY1989 ($573 bn). And remember that Congress always gave Reagan a lot less money for defense than what he requested. If GWOT (OCO) spending is added in, total military spending was higher than during the Reagan years – but only in raw dollar numbers, which indicate almost nothing. By all other measures, defense spending was lower then – and is even lower now – than it was during the Cold War, INCLUDING the Reagan years. In FY2010, it was 3.56% of GDP and 14.87% of the total federal budget (total military spending amounted to ca. 4.7% of GDP and 19% of the total federal budget). Now it’s 3.49% of GDP and ca. 14% of the total federal budget (or 4.5% of GDP and less than 19% of the total fed. budget if you include GWOT spending). This is less than what was spent on defense throughout the ENTIRE Cold War except FY1948. The defense budget is now smaller by these measures than it has been since FY1940 (except the late Clinton years).
“With this in mind, it seems a bit far-fetched to say that these small cuts would “cripple” the U.S. military.”
It is not far-fetched at all. It’s the truth. These cuts WOULD cripple the US military. They would drastically cut defense spending from already-record-low-levels not seen since FY1940 (excepting the late Clinton years) down to even lower levels, by huge amounts, and these cuts would translate into crippling force structure and personnel cuts and an almost total cancellation of military modernization: elimination of the ICBM leg of the nuclear triad immediately (and the other two legs over time through nonreplacement by cancelling the next generation bomber program and the SSBN replacement program), entire cancellation (without replacement) of the F-35 JSF program, cancellation of all Army & USMC ground vehicle and helicopter modernization programs, and so forth. This WOULD cripple the US military. And these cuts would be coming ON TOP OF all the defense cuts already administered by President Obama and the Congress, which, to date, have cut $754 bn from defense accounts – both in actual and in projected spending.
“Second, defense spending consumes a very large portion of the federal budget. In 2011, for example, defense accounted for nearly 20 percent of all federal spending — only Social Security spending was higher.”
FALSE. Defense spending does NOT consider a “very large portion” of the federal budget. “Nearly 20%” is NOT a large, let alone very large, portion; it’s actually a small share. The Big Three entitlement programs constitute a 56% portion of the federal budget. Defense’s share is, as stated earlier, at a historic low. In FY1975, entitlement programs overtook defense in terms of the share of the total federal budget and since then have been consuming an ever large share, while defense’s portion of the federal budget has been constantly SHRINKING (excepting the Reagan years).
“Yet both are considered “sacred cows” by different groups of politicians: Just as many say that trimming back entitlement programs is entirely out of the question for deficit reduction.”
That’s another blatant lie (and, it seems, libertarians’ favorite one). Defense is not anyone’s sacred cow, it is a Constitutional OBLIGATION of the federal government. It is its #1 DUTY. We have a federal government to PROVIDE FOR THE COMMON DEFENSE, as the Constitution says – not to provide entitlement programs. The Constitution prioritizes defense like no other issue, REQUIRES the FG to provide for the common defense, and even says that this was one of the reasons why the Constitution was ordained and the FG established. By contrast, entitlement programs – along with the vast majority of domestic discretionary programs – are UNCONSTITUTIONAL because they are not authorized by the Constitution. Treating defense on par with all other government programs, as if defense was just another line item in the federal budget, is un-American, against the Constitution, against the counsel of most Founding Fathers, and against common sense. And if politicians really considered defense a sacred cow, it would never see ANY cuts. Yet, defense has already been cut SIX TIMES during the last 3 years alone, not even counting the cuts done during the late 1940s, the 1950s, the 1970s, the 1990s, and yes, the Bush years.
“If everyone got their way, we would never be able to eliminate the massive federal deficits: Even if we cut every dollar of the small pool of spending that remains (non-defense discretionary spending), we would still see about a $650 billion budget shortfall in 2011. To truly shrink the size of government and get our national debt under control, spending cuts in every area of the federal budget, including defense, need to be on the table.”
Yet another blatant lie. Defense spending DOES NOT HAVE to be on the table and DOES NOT HAVE to be cut for the size of the federal government to shrink and for the national debt to be reined in. All that is necessary for the Congress to do is to PRIORITIZE federal spending – preferrably in line with the Constitution. If the Congress were composed of he-men and she-women, it would do exactly that. Unfortunately, the Congress is mostly composed of wusses, wimps, and slaves of special interest groups, so they’re going to fight like two alpha male cats in a bag to protect their pet projects and cut defense instead. The DOD is once again going to serve as the fall guy. And, as I stated earlier, the idea that defense should be treated equally to all other government programs, as if defense was just another line item in the federal budget, is un-American, against the Constitution, against the counsel of most Founding Fathers, and against common sense. Defense is, according to the Constitution, the government’s #1 Constitutional DUTY and needs to be treated as such. Last but not least, the demand that defense be on the table supposes that defense has not so far been on the table, which is FALSE, as stated above: defense has already been cut SIX TIMES during the last 3 years alone, not even counting the cuts done during the late 1940s, the 1950s, the 1970s, the 1990s, and yes, the Bush years.
“Finally, the debt-ceiling deal reached this summer was a promise from Congress to the American people: Congress promised that in exchange for increasing the national debt, there would be reductions in future deficits by at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. Even President Obama has it right: We can’t back-track on that promise now by canceling the automatic spending cuts.”
FALSE. The debt-ceiling deal was not a promise from Congress, it was a cowardly act of abdication of responsibility. Instead of prioritizing federal spending or, at least, finding immediate spending cuts to match the debt ceiling hike, Congress kicked the can down the road, abdicating its responsibility to a “Super Committee” composed of 12 political appointees. The “Super Committee”, predictably, failed, and once again, the DOD became the fall guy. It will now be hit by a full 50% of the sequester’s cuts, even though it accounts for LESS THAN 20% of the federal budget. 100% of the sequester will fall on the CORE DEFENSE BUDGET (which pays for maintaining, training, and equipping the military on a day-to-day basis), which amounts to LESS THAN 15% of the federal budget. This was a despicable act of abdication of responsibility, not a promise. And by the way, since the author likes to invoke the American people, here’s the verdict of the American people: according to a recent poll, 82% of them OPPOSE any defense cuts beyond the first (pre-sequester) round of cuts ordered by the debt-ceiling deal. The poll specifically said 82% of them oppose any defense cuts by the Super Committee, and it’s wise to presume they oppose the sequester’s defense cuts as well. Earlier, multiple polls showed that 52%-57% of Americans oppose ANY defense cuts. So, to the author, I say: don’t you dare to invoke the American people or use them as cover for your enthusiastic endorsement of disastrous defense cuts.
Moreover, the American people did not want any more “promises” from Congress when the debt ceiling deal was brokered, and they don’t want any more promises now. They wanted (and still want) ACTION, not PROMISE. They couldn’t care less about Congress’s worthless promises.
President Obama got it WRONG and 82% of Americans got it right: Creating the Super Committee and the sequester was a cowardly act of abdication of responsibility. It was a mistake, and the only right thing to do about a mistake is to correct it, sooner rather than later and immediately if possible.
As for cutting the deficit, with the ultimate goal of balancing the budget, here’s what the Congress should REALLY do: spare defense from the sequester, order all Congressional Committees to find savings in their jurisdictions before Christmas, do it publicly, with the regular legislative procedure, and pass these savings. Gutting defense because politicians couldn’t agree on a deficit reduction deal is practically, Constitutionally, and morally wrong.
The author also falsely claims that:
“So somebody’s favorite pot of spending is going to have to shrink if we want to restore fiscal discipline in Washington, and it’s probably most sensible to cut from all areas of the federal budget.
There are plenty of good ideas to cut spending. The only thing missing is lawmakers’ will to put aside their “sacred cows” and act.”
This is garbage, and it’s basically a repetition of his earlier lies and false presumptions. Yet another blatant lie. Defense spending DOES NOT HAVE to be on the table and DOES NOT HAVE to be cut for the size of the federal government to shrink and for the national debt to be reined in. All that is necessary for the Congress to do is to PRIORITIZE federal spending – preferrably in line with the Constitution. If the Congress were composed of he-men and she-women, it would do exactly that. Unfortunately, the Congress is mostly composed of wusses, wimps, and slaves of special interest groups, so they’re going to fight like two alpha male cats in a bag to protect their pet projects and cut defense instead. The DOD is once again going to serve as the fall guy. And, as I stated earlier, the idea that defense should be treated equally to all other government programs, as if defense was just another line item in the federal budget, is un-American, against the Constitution, against the counsel of most Founding Fathers, and against common sense. Defense is, according to the Constitution, the government’s #1 Constitutional DUTY and needs to be treated as such. Last but not least, the demand that defense be on the table supposes that defense has not so far been on the table, which is FALSE, as stated above: defense has already been cut SIX TIMES during the last 3 years alone, not even counting the cuts done during the late 1940s, the 1950s, the 1970s, the 1990s, and yes, the Bush years.
The author’s endorsement of the sequester and its defense cuts is not just morally repugnant, un-American, and against the Constitution, it also proves that he’s intellectually bankrupt, doesn’t know what he’s talking about, doesn’t know anything about defense, and has no idea how to reduce, let alone eliminate, the budget deficit. If the DailyCaller wants to save whatever few shreds of credibility it might retain, it will delete his ridiculous screed and terminate cooperation with him.