House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and House Speaker John Boehner are taken aback by the negative reactions from conservative groups to the budget deal brokered with Democrats late Tuesday night. "CBS News" is reporting that Boehner lashed out in response to a question about the deal yesterday in a news conference.
"This is ridiculous," Boehner exclaimed. "Listen, if you're for more deficit reduction, you are for this agreement."
But conservatives are right to be skeptical. It’s fairly disingenuous to claim, as Boehner does, that this agreement should make people interested in deficit reduction happy. The deal does far less to reduce the federal deficit than the alternative, which is doing nothing and allowing sequestration cuts to take place.
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., right, accompanied by House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, and Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., answers reporters questions during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, as House Republicans signaled support for a budget deal he worked out yesterday with Senate Budget Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. The budget deal was one of a few major measures left on Congress' to-do list near the end of a bruising year that has produced a partial government shutdown, a flirtation with a first-ever federal default and gridlock on President Obama's agenda. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The deal, brokered with Senate budget chair Patty Murray, increases federal spending by $45 billion, doesn’t touch Medicare or Social Security and forces Americans to pay more to be felt-up and naked-scanned by the TSA. And all to prop up the already-bloated budget of the Department of Defense, which gets half of that additional spending.
It replaces $63 billion in automatic spending cuts with $45 billion more spending for the first year and $63 billion over the course of two years. Federal spending for the next fiscal year would reach an astronomical $1.012 trillion, and then increase to $1.014 trillion the year after that.
Right-wing groups such as Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and Americans for Tax Reform have all voiced opposition to the deal.
[sharequote align="center"]It forces Americans to pay more to be felt-up and naked-scanned by the TSA.[/sharequote]
The U.S. government is on a completely unsustainable path toward insolvency, mostly as a result of entitlement spending. According to Social Security and Medicare’s board of trustees:
We are looking at over $30 trillion in total obligations that we have to find sources to pay for above and beyond projected payroll tax and premium revenues.
To pass a budget that doesn’t deal with entitlement spending is to polish the brass on the Titanic. To extend the metaphor further than is advisable, the only justification I can think of for doing this is to help ensure Republicans get to hold the polish rag.
But is holding the line on a budget that would actually deal with the deficit in a meaningful way really political suicide for the GOP? According to "National Review":
Republicans often hail sequestration’s automatic spending cuts, implemented after the 2011 debt-ceiling fight, as one of their greatest accomplishments since retaking the House in 2010.
It appears a more likely reason for the extra spending is that sequester would “impact the military disproportionately,” according to a letter from House conservatives. But the deal is “the best news they’ve (the Department of Defense) had in a long time,” by the calculations of "Politico’s" Philip Ewing.
Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno testifies on sequestration effects on military budget and spending during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, November 7, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB
But is a good deal for the Pentagon a good deal for American taxpayers?
With a DoD annual budget of $629 billion, the United States’s military spending defies all logic and common sense. The United States is responsible for 39 percent of all the military spending in the the world. Sequestration would put the DoD’s budget at about $475 billion. That would mean the United States would only outspend the next-biggest competitor, China, by $309 billion.
Luckily, to deal with the shortfall the Pentagon could easily cut around $70 billion from the budget over 10 years simply by getting rid of waste, without threatening any Army brigade combat teams, Navy combat ships or Air Force fighter squadrons. For immediate relief, the Pentagon could save the $23 billion it wasted in 2013 overusing contractors and underusing oversight according to one senior defense official.
Any suggestion that sequestration will make Americans less safe from attack is absurd. Unfortunately in all branches of government spending cuts are usually not followed by ruthless assessments aimed at rooting out waste and fraud, but are politicized to create the most hurt for the most people so the spending is restored as quickly as possible.
In this Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 photo, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, speaks with troops at the Al Udeid air base in Qatar. Hagel ended his six day trip in Qatar, meeting with the Emir, military officials, and visiting with US Troops stationed there. (AP Photo/Mark Wilson, Pool)
However, with a budget that would still take up nearly half of all federal spending even after sequestration, no amount of political gamesmanship will be sufficient to actually make the United States measurably more vulnerable to attack.
Democrats are so reluctant to avoid sequestration they let go of their plan to extend employment benefits to pass this deal. Failing to take advantage of this situation in order to prop up a bloated and wasteful DoD, while allowing entitlement programs to continue to bankrupt this country isn’t leadership. This is one case where it would be far better to do nothing.
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