Skip to main content

pentagon photo
Given a choice of automatic tax hikes on the wealthy or automatic defense cuts last summer as part of the budget deal, Republicans chose defense cuts. Some things are just more important than national security it would seem.

Now, because the super committee that was supposed to come up with cuts from both defense and domestic spending failed to do so, the bludgeon meant to guarantee that the committee wouldn't fail is just months away from kicking in: sequestration. That means $600 billion in cuts for the Pentagon over a decade, the first round starting with the 2013 budget, which begins Oct. 1. Republicans are saying the defense cuts would be disastrous. Not a lot of sympathy is coming their way from leading Democrats.

“The consistent pattern here is they have chosen to defend special interest tax breaks over defense spending,” [Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland] said. “They made that choice.”
The Republicans aren't alone, however, when it comes to decrying the coming defense cuts. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says the same thing. As do many other Democrats. Everybody kicked the can down the road, and now we're just months away from where the pavement ends and the situation gets really bumpy unless there is a reneging or coming up with a new deal.

But the Republicans aren't just issuing alarms. They see opportunity in this election year and are targeting defense-rich congressional districts where Democratic incumbents or candidates might be vulnerable to charges that the defense cuts could injure national security. They, of course, have no concerns that the domestic cuts making up the other half of the sequestration deal could be devastating as well:

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) agrees with Republicans on at least this point: that these cuts would be cataclysmic. [...]

“The defense sequester would be so devastating to the defense of our nation that it is hard to imagine thoughtful legislators actually allowing it to happen,” said Scott, who wants to erase the sequester by ending some Bush-era tax cuts. “We’ve heard from the Department of Defense and certainly anybody from Hampton Roads. It is just absolutely absurd to allow that to happen because of what it does to our national defense and to our local economy.”

How devastating? Republicans and Democrats alike have cited an October 2011 study conducted by Stephen S. Fuller at the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University. Under sequestration, Virginia would be second only to California in lost defense jobs—nearly 123,000—the study concluded, a million jobs nationally, most or all of them lost by the end of 2014.

Most of those aren't actual defense jobs but rather in businesses that depend on strong defense presence, everything from hair-dressers to auto-dealers. So, the numbers are a bit fuzzier than the study would seem to indicate. But there is no doubt that the budget cuts would have a large impact. Exactly what and where and how is unknown because the Pentagon has not provided any plans. No surprise. Even though spending cuts after the Vietnam War and the Cold War ended were much greater, percentagewise, than what sequestration would force, there is a strong expectation among the generals and admirals that the situation will be resolved in the Pentagon's favor.

In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been tightening the screws a bit in hopes of getting Republicans to end their sacred vow to Grover Norquist not to raise taxes even if needed to protect the earth from a collision with an extinction-sized asteroid. Reid is not negotiating a way out of sequestration until he starts hearing serious talk of revenue increases as part of the deal. That seems to be having an effect.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, has been sounding the alarm in his state, which thrives on Pentagon spending. But the stubbornness about not raising taxes is weakening:

Mr. Graham is openly talking about revenue increases to offset the costs. Even South Carolina’s ardently conservative House members, Mick Mulvaney, Joe Wilson and Jeff Duncan, said last week that they were ready to talk. [...]

For now, Democrats and Republicans are waiting for the other side to blink. And the pressure may be working. Mr. Graham said the sentiment for raising revenues by closing tax loopholes or imposing higher fees on items like federal oil leases is expanding in his party.

Asked about the “no new taxes” pledge almost all Republicans have signed, he shrugged: “I’ve crossed the Rubicon on that.”

Maybe so. Time will tell. Until something breaks and new negotiations begin, however, Republican campaigners will no doubt keep using the threat of defense-spending sequestration to continue their decades-old attack mode of depicting Democrats as weak on defense.

In reality, the defense budget is a bloated monster that needs more than the trillion-dollar trimming that already agreed-to cuts of $450 billion and the $600 billion sequestration would deliver. But those even deeper cuts should be made in a gradual way to give the Pentagon time to make plans that do not endanger national security. Almost nobody is making that argument. And almost nobody will until after the first week of November at the earliest.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 08:23 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site