The new millennium isn’t working out the way Republicans had hoped, in large part because of two wars that have distracted the political system from domestic concerns. So you’d think the GOP would be eager to avoid new conflicts. Well guess again. House Republicans are sending all the wrong messages to America’s enemies as they abandon Ronald Reagan’s peace-through-strength philosophy in favor of low taxes.
Wait, that’s too kind. We aren’t going to have lower taxes because the Republican conference in the House has done nothing to slow the main drivers of budget deficits. We’re just going to have lower military readiness and investment. Somehow, GOP members in the House have backed into embracing the worst possible position for accomplishing their goals: a posture that fails to impede the growth of entitlements, destroys what’s left of the Republican defense franchise, harms millions of federal workers and contractors in the Republican heartland, and sends a message of weakness to the world’s troublemakers.
Chances are, Kim Jong-Eun isn’t taking his cues from Paul Ryan and National Review Online. But what message are despots of his ilk supposed to be getting from the Republican willingness to go forward with across-the-board cuts of the defense budget? The only part of the Pentagon budget the GOP is pledged to protect is military pay and benefits, a position that makes it sound just as committed to entitlements as the Democrats it so stridently assails.
Republican abandonment of Ronald Reagan’s principles on national defense might be a little easier to understand if the Pentagon was the main cause of runaway government spending. But it isn’t. Defense is less than a fifth of the federal budget, and it is much more firmly grounded in the Constitution than the various social welfare schemes that have been dreamed up since the New Deal. The Navy’s entire shipbuilding budget represents only about 36 hours of federal spending at current rates.
So the notion that by going forward with defense sequestration Republicans are fixing the nation’s fiscal problems is laughable. What they are really doing is playing into the hands of progressives who wanted to cut defense anyway, which will make entitlements an even bigger share of the federal budget. In the process, though, they are sending a message to our enemies everywhere that America has grown weary of being the world’s policeman, and aggression therefore may go unanswered.
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