Thursday, August 4, 2011

More meaningless posturing over "automatic" cuts in the defense budget

Posted by John Keller

I don't know whether to be amused or frustrated over political rhetoric coming out of Washington about these so-called "automatic" cuts in the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) budget over the next decade if Congress doesn't either reduce projected spending or raise taxes.

First, talking about "required" defense budget cuts right now anywhere beyond federal fiscal year 2013 is just silly, empty, political fluff. I get tired of beating this dead horse, but I'll say it again: Congress does whatever it wants to do on a year-by-year basis. There are NO "required" cuts in the future because every Congress acts on its own, regardless of promises made in the past.

Nothing's binding; it's all just a bunch of talk. Rather shocking behavior to see from Washington, don't you think?

Look at the stories making the rounds over the past few days containing dire predictions of hurting our national defense due to potential "automatic cuts totaling an additional half a trillion dollars" ... "if Congress fails to enact additional deficit reduction legislation by the end of the year." You can read rhetoric like that in a story today in the Los Angeles Times entitled "Pentagon says projected spending cuts could undermine security."

Take a close look at these stories. They all contain caveats like "unless Congress decided to overturn the cuts." IF Congress were to overturn the cuts? They actually mean WHEN Congress overturns the cuts, as lawmakers, in their wisdom and calculation, undoubtedly will do.

They always do.

Every Congress acts on its own every federal fiscal year. They're bound by nothing in the past. They start every year out with a clean slate. Overturning commitments made in the past is just part of the routine, and can be predicted like the sun rising in the east.

So, with this in mind, every dire prediction you read about "automatic" defense cuts over the next 10 years is all just political theater performed to exert pressure for the perceived need to do something now. In this case the pressure being applied is about raising taxes, and the rhetoric is intended to hold the DOD budget hostage to make that happen.

The budget will be cut drastically in the future unless Congress enacts new taxes, we hear from Washington. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta trotted out a statement this week warning these deep cuts in the defense budget would hurt national security, and that the American people should accept higher taxes, rather than deep cuts in the defense budget.

It's right off the Obama Administration script. Panetta delivered his lines like the Democrat party pro he is. I remember years ago interviewing Panetta in his Capitol Hill office when he was a congressman representing Monterey, Calif. He was a skilled, experienced political infighter then, and he's a skilled, experienced political infighter today. Same party, same script, different job.

So, if you find yourself starting to get worked up over future military budget cuts based on what you're hearing out of Washington, just take a breath and remind yourself that this is only a movie.

Because that's all it is.

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