Friday, January 6, 2012

GOP, conservatives need to get priorities straight

Going into the election year of 2012, major polls (see here and here) highlight two issues as most important to voters. One is the economy (which includes unemployment/jobs) and the other is the budget deficit. The wave of Republicans who came into Congress in 2010 attempted to address these issues by insisting on spending cuts to reduce the deficit, resisting tax increases for fear of further damaging the economy. A number of bitter deadlocks ensued as President Obama insisted on tax increases and repeatedly balked at cutting spending.

Now, Obama has finally come up with $500 billion in spending cuts--but rather than celebrate, the editors of conservative magazine National Review attack him viciously. The reason? Obama wants to cut the Pentagon budget. In attacking the cuts, National Review calls Obama's plan a "retreat" and pulls out all the usual neocon arguments. They scold Obama for trying to return troop levels to where they were at the end of the Clinton administration--which was not coincidentally the last time we had a balanced budget.

Here is one quote: "At its Cold War peak, U.S. military strategy called for the peacetime ability to simultaneously fight and win two major theater wars and a “brushfire” conflict. The years after the Soviet collapse saw that capability pared down in the name of the “peace dividend,” just in time for the 9/11 decade to deliver . . . two major theater wars and a series of “brushfire” conflicts... But the president draws precisely the wrong conclusion from the challenges of those conflicts. Faced with our struggle to fight up to our own standards, he has elected to lower the bar."

Well, if "lowering the bar" means that less Americans die fighting for dubious causes in wars like Vietnam or Iraq, and our deficit is reduced as well, then I'm all for it. It seems to me that Obama drew exactly the right conclusion: don't start a war without an imminent threat to America and don't engage in prolonged nation-building.

Conservatives really need to realize that we can't do it all. We can't balance the budget, keep taxes low, maintain our infrastructure, keep an acceptable safety net, and continue even a stabilized version of Social Security and Medicare while continuing to act as the world's lone policeman. Not only that, but unless Republicans are willing to cut their favored programs, it would be disingenuous to ask Democrats to do the same.


  1. Why has this president and the democrats NOT offered ONE single reform or budget cut to the giant welfare and entitlement programs that are really driving the fiscal problems? Instead he decides to cut the military, which may be fine, but where are the other cuts?

    Could the answer have something to do with the fact that the majority of soldiers lean Republican.

    The dirty secret may be that the president's move to slash the budgets of the military has to do with votes. His voters are big government beneficiaries. Restructuring entitlements, reforming welfare, and making net reductions to the federal workforce does NOT help him or his party.

    So, he instead decides to go after that part of the government where there's the highest concentration of GOP voters? Doing so reduces downsides and risks for the president and his party and it permits him to campaign arguing that he's seeking ways to reduce the size of government. Unless he comes up with similar proposals for the other big and giant programs in the budget that are the main source of the problem - I say it's a Chicago-style con.

  2. But if the GOP agrees to military cuts, they can then really put pressure on Obama and the Dems to rein in entitlements. Otherwise, Obama has a highly effective strategy: simply accuse the Repubs of "wanting to cut programs for the most vulnerable Americans but not for the bloated war machine."

  3. that is a good point. bloat needs to go without putting the country at risk since a mistake in defense is hard to recover from.