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Folks who think that (at the very least) we should be allowed to experience a few years of peace before launching the next military adventure are on the cusp of a major victory in Washington. All we have to do to win this historic victory is maintain the "sequester" cuts to the Pentagon budget that are already planned in existing law. And if we win the next round - if we avoid any kind of "grand bargain" one more time - we will likely win forever, because the Pentagon cuts will be an accomplished fact, and when everyone sees that the Earth is still spinning on its axis, we'll all realize that cutting the Pentagon budget is no big deal. The Pentagon will be smaller, the sun will come up in the morning, and life will go on.

Democratic and Republican Members of Congress are talking about a new budget plan. Ostensibly, the purpose of this discussion is to come up with an agreed alternative to cutting the Pentagon budget as required by existing law. But cutting the Pentagon budget is in the interests of the vast majority of Americans who would rather that our tax dollars be used for domestic needs - including by lowering taxes on working people - than for foreign wars, foreign military bases, and exotic science fiction weapons systems. Moreover, many Republicans are insisting to cut Social Security benefits with "chained CPI" as a price of a deal; many Democrats are insisting to raise taxes by cutting deductions for charitable contributions and home mortgage interest as a price of a deal. So killing this bargain is in the public interest, three times over. It's win-win-win. The best likely deal for the public interest is no deal, because the "sequester" is better for the public interest than any deal being seriously talked about.

You wouldn't get this impression from mainstream media, because mainstream media pundits are, by and large, cheering for the opposing team. From the point of view of many mainstream media pundits, Washington is "dysfunctional" because Democrats and Republicans can't come together to cut Social Security, raise taxes, and protect the Pentagon budget so we can continue to run around bombing, invading, and occupying other people's countries. Because if there's one thing mainstream media pundits love, it's bombing, invading, and occupying other people's countries. So according to them, it's a "grand bargain" to cut Social Security and raise taxes so that we can keep doing that.

The fact that we don't have anyone in the mainstream media cheering for the team that wants to cut the Pentagon budget instead of cutting Social Security and raising taxes gives many people the impression that something bad is happening - "Democrats and Republicans can't cooperate" - when from the point of view of the interests of 99% of the population, something good is happening: "Democrats and Republicans won't agree to a deal that harms the public interest in three different ways." Watching this mainstream media coverage from the point of view of the public interest is like being a Cubs fan watching a game with the Cardinals on St. Louis TV. Your team hits a grand slam, and the announcer is sad. But that doesn't mean that you should be sad. You should be dancing in the street. When the U.S. didn't bomb Syria, Washington cried. America celebrated.

Outside of Washington, everyone knows that the Pentagon is throwing our tax dollars around like a drunken sailor. But while that is offensive enough, something greater is at stake. A key argument being made in Washington now is that we have to cut Social Security and raise taxes to avoid cutting the Pentagon budget because cutting the Pentagon budget might constrain our future ability to bomb, invade, and occupy other people's countries. Really. I am not making this up. My emphasis in what follows.

Here's what Lindsey "bomb Iran" Graham - remember him from Secretary Hagel's confirmation hearing? - had to say:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a GOP defense hawk from South Carolina, said sequestration, if left in place, will break the military. Graham also said any additional Defense Department cuts would be dangerous given the long list of threats America is facing, pointing to Iran's nuclear program, al-Qaida and continuing instability in Syria.
How is the size of the Pentagon budget relevant to Iran and Syria? It's only relevant if you're planning to bomb them.

Here's Kelly Ayotte (she replaced Joe Lieberman to join McCain and Graham as a member of the "intervene everywhere" Three Amigos):

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., told her budget conference colleagues that senior Army leaders tell her only two brigades are fully ready for combat. Replacing sequestration would help greatly to reverse that, she said.
Here's House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon:
Republicans, led by advocates such as House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon of California, say the defense budget has borne more than its share of the burden since its first sizable reductions in 2011. It's time to shrink entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, they argue, not to scale down American power.
Virginia Republican Rob Wittman:
Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) wrote a letter of his own imploring the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to remember the Defense Department as he negotiates with his Senate Democratic counterpart on the future budget blueprint due in mid-December.

"The time to take action against the sequester cuts to the Department of Defense is now," Wittman wrote. "The readiness of our all-volunteer force and our ability to project power is at stake."

What does "our ability to project power" mean, when you're talking about the Pentagon budget? It means our ability to bomb, invade, and occupy other people's countries.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno:

"If we go to a continuing resolution plus sequestration -- which is what we're planning -- it's going to significantly reduce our ability to train again this year," warned Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno. "So the worst case scenario is, you ask me to deploy thousands of soldiers somewhere, and we have not properly trained them to go, because we simply don't have the dollars and money because of the way sequestration is laid out that it makes it more difficult."
Notice that none of these people are claiming that a smaller Pentagon will not be able to defend America. They are claiming that it will be harder to send American soldiers somewhere else - somewhere else where they probably don't belong in the first place.

Now of course, Odierno is poor-mouthing to try to avoid his share of budget cuts. But suppose he's telling the truth. Suppose that his ability to immediately drop thousands of soldiers in some country that hasn't attacked us and hasn't threatened to attack us might be constrained. Suppose that when someone came up with a plan for a new illegal war, the soldiers needed to carry it out weren't already waiting to deploy. Suppose that Congress had to appropriate new money to train the troops to carry out the illegal war plan. Might that constrain the Executive Branch from conducting illegal wars? Might that have the effect of counting to ten? Would that be so terrible?  We might have to give up bombing, invading, and occupying other people's countries for a while? Cry me a river.

As shown in this graph from this piece by Ezra Klein, if the "sequester" Pentagon cuts are allowed to stand, then following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we'll have a peak-to-trough Pentagon drawdown smaller than after the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. If someone claims that such a drawdown is too big, then they are claiming that even after the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are over, the Pentagon should still have a war-level budget.

That can only mean one thing: these people want more war. What Graham, Ayotte, McKeon and Wittman are saying to the American people is: no break from war for you, and not only that, but we are going to cut your Social Security benefits and raise your taxes to pay for more war.

Is it ok with you if the Pentagon budget might be cut so much that the Pentagon might have trouble running around the world bombing, invading, and occupying other people's countries? Would you prefer that to cutting Social Security benefits and raising taxes so that we could keep tormenting the world with gratuitous violence? If that's your position, tell Congress.


Don't cut my Social Security benefits and raise my taxes so the Pentagon can bomb other people's countries.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Fine with me nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Naiman, Thomas Twinnings

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 02:39:59 PM PST

  •  Defense Sequester is a big liberal win... (3+ / 0-)

    ... in my opinion.  Gutting defense is a noble goal in a world that we dominate already.  Take the money they want to restore to defense and expand social security to mitigate the economic hit (yes, Keanesian econ. says the cuts are costing jobs) and you have a liberal wet dream!

  •  I suppose the sequestration cuts are better than (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Naiman, phonegery, allenjo

    what we're eventually going to get, but they're still unacceptable.  The empire will go on but Head Start will get cut, Medicare will get cut, public housing cut, FDA cut, border security cut, military benefits cut, National parks cut, Forest Service and national fire fighting resources cut, etc.  
    It's an unnecessary tradeoff for sure.
    I'm all for cutting the War Department budget and the National Insecurity budgets.  But this kabuki debt ceiling, budget balancing bullshit is just that, bullshit.  
    Raise taxes on the damn rich and make them pay and end the global military empire now.

    "It is easier to pass through the eye of a needle then it is to be an honest politician."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 02:58:03 PM PST

    •  re: I suppose the sequestration cuts (3+ / 0-)

      If it were up to me, we'd keep the Pentagon sequester and repeal the domestic sequester. But no-one in Washington is talking about that, not even progressive Democrats.

      Any likely deal that turns off Pentagon cuts is going to be worse for domestic spending than no deal. The cuts in domestic spending would be differently distributed - Social Security will be cut, whereas it is protected under the sequester - but cuts to domestic spending will increase overall under a deal that protects the Pentagon. Which is the only kind of deal being talked about.

  •  So.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Naiman, socal altvibe
    list of threats America is facing, pointing to Iran's nuclear program, al-Qaida and continuing instability in Syria
    That's our biggest threat?
    We could cut the Pentagon in half and still be quite capable of defending ourselves from these threats.
    I would hope that money would not be the deciding factor:
    ability to immediately drop thousands of soldiers in some country that hasn't attacked us and hasn't threatened to attack us might be constrained
    rather that it be a legal and rational basis that prevents us from stomping around where we don't belong.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 04:24:21 PM PST

  •  How do we keep the Pentagon sequester (0+ / 0-)

    while getting rid of the sequester that's killing the country?  I want the military budget cut in half, but how do we do that without leaving in place the horrid austerity hurting so many? The military sequester is the only leverage we have with the GOP to cancel the rest of the sequester.

    "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

    by SouthernLeveller on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 04:48:46 PM PST

    •  "canceling" sequester is not on the table (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There is no serious proposal on the table to simply "cancel" the sequester. All proposals being discussed by people close to the table replace domestic cuts with other domestic cuts. Find one Democrat who is close to the budget process who is proposing just getting rid of domestic cuts completely with no offset. You can't. Dems close to the process are conceding that any reduction in sequester cuts will have to be "offset." That means that if 1) you get rid of the Pentagon cuts and 2) you have anything less than a dollar of new revenue for every dollar in cuts - Dems talked in the past about 1 dollar of revenue for 2 dollars in cuts - then domestic cuts will actually increase in a deal that turns off the Pentagon sequester. The revenue increase will go towards the Pentagon, not domestic spending.

    •  SL - not possible (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Robert Naiman

      The GOP does not like the defense cuts and loves the cuts to social services. They would never agree to end the defense cuts and restore the social service cuts. They would prefer the reverse. The deal that was cut in 2012 will remain. The GOP doesn't like the higher taxes for the rich and the defense cuts, but they do like the social service cuts and the fact that the annual deficit is declining. The Dems like the reverse. Sounds like a stalemate to me.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 08:14:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  May I suggest some good reading? Charles Sumner's (0+ / 0-)

    the "True Grandeur of Nations" and "The Duel between France and Germany". Senator Sumner, an early and important peacenik, came at the problem from the history of peace and international law, with a transformative perspective. Peace involves Christian ethics from the Catholic saint St. Louis to Dr. King. Of course there's an economic argument but there are deeper issues, including the republican edict against a standing army and the criminality of war per se. The warlike American culture may give you the feeling of being a follower in Saint Louis's footsteps at Fort Leonard Wood. I think you will enjoy reading Sumner and today's great Catholic activist Jim Douglass on how this plays out in national politics.

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