Rebuttal of John Stossel’s lies

In his latest (and hopefully, this year’s last) screed for the year 2011, John Stossel alleges that “we libertarians have won the battle of ideas”, without providing any proof of this, and makes these false claims:

“What am I talking about? We haven’t won. Even Republicans want to grow government. When the Super Committee failed to reach its super conclusion and thereby put us on automatic pilot to a trillion dollars in spending cuts, Republicans screamed about draconian damage to the military. But the automatic cuts are really just cuts in the rate of increase. Spending will still go up, just at a slightly slower rate. Why is this even controversial?”

Except the statement that libertarians haven’t won yet, all of his claims quoted here are blatant lies.

Let’s start with the last one. Stossel alleges (without providing any evidence, because none exists) that the cuts will be only reductions of the rate of increase of defense spending. That is FALSE. Under the sequestration mechanism, not only will there be zero growth in defense spending, it will also be cut IN REAL TERMS (i.e. accounting for inflation) by $882 bn over a decade below the FY2011 level and will not return to that level until the mid-2020s. And even if inflation is NOT taken into account, there will still be zero growth of defense spending, and it will still be cut by $228 bn below the FY2011 level, and not return to it in nominal terms until FY2019.

At the same time, GWOT (OCO) spending, albeit not subject to the sequester, will be continually shrinking (as US troops withdraw from Afghanistan): to $80 bn in FY2013, $50 bn in FY2014 and FY2015, and $0 in FY2016 (all US troops are schedueld to leave that country by Dec. 31st, 2014).

And even WITHOUT the sequester, OCO spending would still zero out after 2014 while defense spending would still be cut in real terms (i.e. zero growth and still a cut) – in $465 bn over a decade. That would be a milder reduction, but still a real term spending cut.

No, Mr Stossel, those will not be mere reductions in the rate of defense spending growth. There will actually be zero such growth and radical defense spending cuts if the debt ceiling deal is allowed to stand.

Stossel falsely claims that “Republicans screamed about draconian damage to the military.” In other words, he’s trying to mislead the public into thinking that Republicans were merely scaremongering the public. Yet, if the sequestration mechanism is allowed to stand, the damage WILL be draconian. The ICBM leg of the nuclear triad will have to be eliminated entirely and immediately; the other two legs gradually through nonreplacement (because both the Next Gen Bomber and the SSBN-X program will have to be cancelled). The bomber fleet will have to be cut by 2/3, the SSBN fleet by 4 boats (from 14 to just 10), the fighterplane fleet by 35%, the Army to its smallest size since 1940, the Navy to its smallest size since 1915 (to just 230 ships), and the Marines to just 145,000 men – not able to conduct even one big military operation. For anyone to dismiss this damage as scaremongering is foolish.

And what of Stossel’s claim that Republicans’ protests against these defense cuts constitute proof that Republicans want to grow government? Firstly, Republicans haven’t called for any defense spending INCREASES. They merely want to protect the defense budget from draconian cuts (or, in the case of Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, from any cuts at all). But even if they did want to increase defense spending, that would NOT mean growing government, because the Pentagon is NOT a big government program. Defense is a Constitutionally legitimate function, and a Constitutional DUTY, of the federal government. The frequently-made libertarian claim that it’s just another big government project has been rebutted by me many times, notably here, here, and here.

The Founding Fathers agreed. George Washington said to the Congress in 1790:

“Among the many interesting objects which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. (…) To be prepared for war is one of the effective means of preserving the peace.”

James Madison, for a long time an opponent of standing armies, ultimately changed his opinion and said in 1788:

“How could a readiness for war in times of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation?”

Fort his part, John Adams said one time that:

“National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman.”

So according to the Founding Fathers, defense is “one of the cardinal duties of a statesman” and we must prepare for war in order to keep the peace and prevent war. In other words, Ronald Reagan did not invent the “peace through strength” philosophy – George Washington did, although he did not call it that way.

Claiming that defense is a Big Government program essentially means claiming that George Washington, John Adams, and James Madison were Big Government politicians.


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