Conservative Hypocrisy on Military Spending

Bank robber Willie Sutton famously said he robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” Applying this logic to cutting our Federal budget deficit would lead to this conclusion—to save money, we have to cut military spending. That’s where the Bush/Cheney Administration essentially doubled spending during its two terms. That’s where the money is.

Yet when Secretary Gates had the audacity to increase the military budget by “only” 4%, the Republicans and “Blue Dog” Democrats howled.

Why is it that GOP/Blue Dog “pay-as-you-go” budgets only apply to domestic spending?

It’s time they were called on their hypocrisy. Wasting taxpayer money on dangerous, unnecessary, expensive military projects is more of an imposition on our grandchildren than spending money on health care or green energy — especially when the weapons programs don’t work properly. The Government Accountability Office has documented massive Pentagon waste. Why is Congress unconcerned?

Why do we still have hundreds of overseas bases, in a nation founded in a colonial uprising? What about the long list of unnecessary, ridiculously costly weapons systems? The choices include the F-22 Raptor, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the DDG 1000 Destroyer, our extra aircraft carrier group, the weaponization of space, etc. Secretary Gates did propose big cuts in several of these programs, for which he deserves credit. He also shifted money to health care and treatment for veterans, long overdue.

But he left too many other poorly working, over-budget, badly delayed projects alive, and some of his cuts may never happen. As an example, I believe Gates honestly thinks that we already have more than enough F-22s. But I note that he slid 4 F-22s into the Iraq/Afghanistan supplemental appropriation, even though a big criticism of the plan is that it hasn’t been used in our current wars. And that a skilled bureaucratic in-fighter like Robert Gates understands that Congress may well fund more F-22s, despite his recommendations. Meanwhile, he has quietly increased funding for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is touted as “less expensive” than the F-22; but if the F-35 ever gets to where it works properly, a full package of F-35s may well end up costing more over its life cycle than President Obama’s stimulus package!

A likely end result — lots of press for “cutting” F-22s, but a big spending increase for fighter planes by the time Congress gets done. And we could really use these funds to pay for health care for everyone, keep people ripped off by sub-prime loans in their homes, and put Americans to work “greening” our economy — changes which would create twice the jobs.

I understand that many liberal and moderate Democrats will be hypocritical when it comes to military spending in their own districts, and many of them will duck the Afghanistan issue. But the greater hypocrisy belongs to the Republicans and the Blue Dogs, who pretend to care deeply about fiscal responsibility, pay-as-you-go spending, and the tax burden on our grandchildren. Yet somehow, when it’s the Pentagon budget, all concern vanishes.

The GOP has always been wrong on Iraq. But they’ve been abetted by the Blue Dog Democrats, and now both groups are dragging their feet as President Obama tries to keep his campaign promise to get out of Iraq. Why do Republicans and Blue Dogs continue to oppose saving money, while doing what the voters said they wanted?

Then there is Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires. Aside from the moral and strategic questions involved, most Republicans and Blue Dogs act as if the staggering financial costs of increased involvement in Afghanistan are irrelevant.

Personally, I’d like to help President Obama as he cuts back on the world’s nuclear arsenal, saving money and our future. America spends about half of every discretionary tax dollar on the military. We spend about as much on our military as the rest of the world combined. We lead the world in arms sales.

So if the Blue Dog Democrats — and maybe even a few of the loudly whining, teabagging Republicans — are serious about fiscal responsibility and protecting our grandchildren from massive debt, isn’t it time they helped progressives make serious military spending cuts?

This column was distributed by Minuteman Media.

Steve Cobble is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.