Friday, January 17, 2014

The plank in the Defense budget

“If we don’t watch it, the Pentagon’s going to become a government benefits agency that fights wars on the side.” –Rep. Paul Ryan

“There’s a war within the Defense budget. You have to tackle this issue. Personnel costs are now pushing out defense power.” –Mackenzie Eaglen, AEI

Veterans groups and sundry conservative stalwarts are upset at the military pension sequester in the Ryan-Murray budget. They’re attracted more to the symbolism of the cuts than the reality. They are actually modest cuts to the rate of acceleration of payouts. Never mind that personnel costs have doubled since 2000, while the numbers of the rank and file have stagnated.

The cuts don’t go far enough. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the savings will be $12.8 billion over 5 years. That comes out to 0.62 percent of $413 billion in personnel costs per year.

In these heady times for the republic, opposing throwing more money at the troops is fiscal responsibility, not treason.

“First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). Republicans invoke budget-balancing families to stress government’s duty to cut spending. When they defend military families from facing the same reality, it’s hard not to think hypocrisy. They look less principled and more like reactionary Democrats when their voter blocs are threatened with a decrease in the flow of money from Washington.

Can you tell the difference between Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and socialist Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren?

“You’re willing to do this over politics? You’re really willing to cut these people off, to leave them with no money to put food on the table, to put a roof over their heads, to take care of their children?”

“Our veterans are owed the highest protection, care, and service by our grateful nation, and I will continue to work to ensure that we take care of America’s heroes.”

I hear the same patronizing tone.

There’s one thing worse than being shamed to give more to those who feel entitled to your money: that’s being spoken of as if you’re the one entitled to other people’s money.

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