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Ignoring Reality

The military is the president's primary duty.

1:45 PM, Jun 17, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
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In the Boston Globe, Josh Green shares his latest epiphany:

Brooding over the deficit is Washington’s civil religion, and as the budget gap exploded over the last two years, we’ve witnessed a revival. From the Tea Party to the White House, the deficit is a driving concern. Fear of adding to it has thwarted Democratic efforts at another stimulus. Anger over it could determine who controls Congress. No force in politics is more powerful.

So it’s odd that the largest category of discretionary spending has largely escaped scrutiny: military spending.

Well, gee wizard, why hasn't anyone thought of this one before? Let's cut the military budget, and give the money saved to entitlement programs. 

Green, however, leaves out an important little fact: We're in the middle of two wars, and a broader struggle against jihadists around the world. Perhaps there are prudent reasons for having a robust -- dare one say, even larger -- military, but you'd never know that from reading Green's piece. 

Green thinks cutting military spending is an issue the Tea Partiers and "true deficit hawks" can get behind. And Obama, too, should get behind these military-cutting efforts and really bring change to Washington.

The president's primary duty is commander-in-chief. Everything else is secondary. There is no mention in the Constitution that the president's duties also include, say, Social Security, health care mandates, Medicaid, Medicare, etc. The Tea Party folks understand this. They understand that the president has duties that he must carry out. Indeed, the Tea Party folks are pro-Constitution, not pro-silliness.   

Green also leaves out another important point, recently made by Fred Kagan on this blog. The military employs millions of Americans and much of the money it spends goes back into the American economy:

Defense spending has long been recognized as one of the single strongest stimulants to any economy. World War II brought America out of the Great Depression and into an era of enormous prosperity, just to cite the most obvious example. Current defense spending will not have that effect because it is so small compared to the size of the economy—it hovers at or below 4 percent of GDP.

But forget those statistics and precedents as well and focus on something more concrete. A very large portion of the defense budget goes to paying the salaries of something like 5 million Americans. Since American forces deployed overseas do not live on the local economy, almost all of that money goes either to their families here at home or to the concessions that serve them abroad generally run by U.S. contractors. One can feel about contractors however one pleases, but U.S. contractors are American firms and their earnings and most of their wages also go back into the American economy.

It's a tired effort, to cut the military, and an easy target for liberals. But it ignores reality, and invoking deficit hawk and Tea Party arguments simply makes the author come across as naive or disingenuous. 

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