Eric Cantor asks an excellent question in the excerpt from The Huffington Post article below. But as I will show, if we use that same question and apply the logic driving it to the relationship between the federal payroll and the budget deficit issue writ large, I think we’d come to a vastly different conclusion. Here is the except:
“The Republican plan to cut $61 billion from current spending levels would take a heavy toll on employment, destroying 700,000 jobs by 2012, according to an independent economic analysis by Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics. The study, released on Monday, predicted that the GOP bill would slow economic growth by 0.5 percentage points this year.
In his weekly Capitol briefing with reporters, Cantor acknowledged that the Republican stopgap budget bill, known as a continuing resolution or CR, might increase unemployment. But he argued that the government should not be creating jobs if that means creating greater deficits.
‘What kind of jobs is he talking about? Is he talking about government jobs? If so, why is the government hiring people it can't afford to pay?’ Cantor asked.”
Indeed. Why is our government hiring people it can’t afford to pay? Excellent question. Now, if memory serves, we “surged” about 110,000 Iraqis onto the U.S. government payroll in order to help—along with 25,000 more troops—to end the civil war. We sponsored Iraqi construction projects to the tune of $900 billion (through 2010), many of which were never completed or were simply abandoned after insurgents repeatedly attacked or destroyed them. And, according to Congressional study in 2008, there is still over $9 billion unaccounted for, money that apparently just “disappeared.” That is in addition to the $10 billion Congress calls “wasted.”
But hey, that’s in the past, right? No. Not at all.
According to a Department of Defense study of contractors in Afghanistan, we are still in the business of putting people on the federal payroll:
“According to the report, there were 68,197 Pentagon contractors in Afghanistan, compared with 52,300 uniformed U.S. personnel. Of the Pentagon contractors, 9,300 were U.S. citizens, 52,000 were Afghan, and 7,000 were third-country nationals. There has been a 300 percent increase in contractors since 2007, according to the Defense Contract Management Agency.” (emphasis mine)
And we are still “wasting” billions on contracts and contractors. The report concludes:
“Amey, of the Project on Government Oversight, said the situation in Afghanistan mirrors the U.S. experience in Iraq: Security concerns made it difficult for foreign contractors to work on the battlefield, forcing reliance on local contractors with little accountability. It’s an endless cycle of frustration and failure.
‘It seems as if there wasn’t a lessons- learned approach carrying into Afghanistan, which is not to waste federal taxpayer dollars on contracting projects like this,’ Amey said in an interview with The Fiscal Times.”
So, Mr. Cantor, in answer to your excellent question, I would strongly encourage you and the rest of your budget deficit hawks to do the right thing: end the war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stop paying Iraqis and Afghanis. Stop hiring contractors. If you do that, the measly $61 billion you plan to save by putting 700,000 Americans out of work would pale by comparison to the savings from ending our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last Friday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted that any president fool enough to contemplate another war like the ones we started in the Middle East “should have his head examined.” I think it’s not much of a stretch to say that he wishes the U. S. wouldn’t have started wars he can’t find a good way to end.
So, with those facts in mind, I say to Mr. Cantor: If you are truly concerned about how to pay down the deficit and if you honestly think that cutting the federal payroll is the best way to do that, then you really only one have choice: cut the Iraqis and Afghanis who rely on American dollars. And while you are at it, draw a thick red line through the cost of contractors.
After that, calling for an immediate withdrawal of our troops—all of them—from those huge money drains should be easy. Just think of all the money we will save!