After Paul Ryan released his budget plan, the Path to Prosperity, it was mercilessly savaged not just by the Left, but also by numerous fiscal-only-conservatives who want everything to be done their way now (like little children) and don’t think his budget cuts spending deeply and quickly enough, and they also hate it from preventing the sequestration of defense spending.
These fiscal hawks assaulting Paul Ryan are disloyal, treacherous, and not deserving to be called conservatives. By attacking the Ryan Plan for not being as perfect as they’d like it to be, they are siding with the far left and playing into its hands, thus betraying the GOP, the conservative movement, and the conservative cause.
Who are they? Fiscal hawks like FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth, and the Cost of Government Center, as well as libertarians like Ron and Rand Paul.
C4G President Chris Chocola said in a statement that
“The Club for Growth urges Republicans to support a budget that balances in the near future and complies with the Budget Control Act.”
According to AmSpec’s James Antle, “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.”
In other words, they consider the BCA to be a sacred thing, on par with the Bible, and they want defense spending to be sequestrated (on top of all defense cuts already administered and scheduled), regardless of the consequences. (In reality, the sequester would gut defense, and the BCA is a misbegotten statute that should’ve never been passed and should be repealed or amended ASAP.)
FreedomWorks’ Dean Clancy protests that:
“Now for the bad parts. Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t really try to balance the budget or specify a single cabinet agency for elimination. (…) Like last year’s Ryan budget, the new version takes Social Security and defense off the spending-cut table. These two programs together equal 40 percent of the budget. This is why the tea party views GOP leaders much as Charlie Brown views Lucy holding the football.”
Clancy lists this under the headline “the ugly.” He also asks his readers to believe the fantasy that Rand Paul’s budget plan is “great” and that “we can have a great budget plan”, but Rand Paul’s budget does not stand the slightest chance of passing the Congress and it isn’t really great. Not only does it cut defense spending (although modestly) and mandate the withdrawal of most troops from abroad (at a time when America’s airlift and sealift capabilities are greatly strained and are being deeply cut) and accept First Tier BCA defense cuts ($487 bn), it doesn’t really balance the budget at all; it merely PROMISES to do, and it claims that its tax reform plan (a flat tax) can revitalize the economy quickly enough so that it will produce over $800 bn of additional tax revenue every year, thus allowing him to balance the budget in five years, using $800 bn of additional tax revenue and $500 bn of spending cuts (his plan cuts spending by only $500 bn, the same as the Ryan plan).
If you believe that Rand Paul’s plan would balance the budget within 5 years, I’ve got a bridge to sell to you.
But back to the Ryan plan.
Fiscal hawks and libertarians object to it because it 1) prevents defense spending’s sequestration and 2) does not cut spending deeply and quickly enough.
I share the disappointment that the Ryan Plan doesn’t cut spending deeply enough. But America didn’t get into this fiscal mess overnight, and it’s ridiculous and naive to think that it can be solved overnight or in one year. Solving such a royal mess will take many years of hard work by the Congress and by grassroots conservatives. Certainly, Ryan could’ve done better. But his plan, compared to current Congressional policy and the Obama Admin’s plans, represents huge progress and would go a long way in balancing the books.
Moreover, the Ryan plan would not balance the budget until FY2040 only under CBO’s ridiculous static scoring, which assumes that his pro-growth tax reforms would not have ANY effect on the economy.
Even so, the CBO shows that by FY2017 – 5 years from now – Ryan would cut the deficit to just $182 bn per year, under static scoring. Under dynamic scoring, he would probably balance the budget by FY2017.
As for the other objection, fiscal hawks should NOT be clamoring for defense spending sequestration. Unfortunately, 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 mandates 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.
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?
By the COGC’s own admission, the mandatory spending cuts which Paul Ryan would substitute for defense sequestration would, over a decade, save taxpayers THREE TIMES MORE MONEY than defense sequestration. Yet, that is not enough for them – because they want to deeply cut defense, the government’s #1 Constitutional duty, not mandatory spending.
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.
They’ve finally shown their true colors. They’ve shown they are not conservatives at all, not even fiscal conservatives, but merely libertarians who are out their to specifically gut defense and don’t care about the Constitution.
They must be ostracized and shamed for their treachery. By attacking the Ryan Plan, they’ve allied themselves with the far left and are playing into its hands.