Sequester Madness

If the Republicans are supposed to be the voice of fiscal responsibility in Washington, then we are doomed.  They are absolutely as bad as Obama, running around in panic that the trivial cuts required by the sequester (not 8% this year or 5% or even 2% but 1% of Federal spending).  I have never seen a private organization with a large administrative staff that could not take a 5% reduction and generally be better off for it.   I absolutely guarantee that I could take 5% or more off the top of every agency's budget and you would never notice it.

This includes the military.  In fact, this includes the military in particular.  The military is never asked to prioritize.   We still have armored divisions in Germany.  It is always incredible to me that Republicans, who doubt that the government can ever manage or spend wisely, suddenly cast aside all these doubts when it comes to the military.   I understand the honor that folks accord to front-line soldiers vs., say, DMV workers.  But they are not the ones spending the money.  I am tired of such honor for the troops being used to bait and switch me from a very reasonable focus on DOD spending and waste.

When it comes to the military, Republicans use the same "closing the Washington Monument" tactics that Democrats use for social programs, essentially claiming that a 5% (or 1%) spending cut will result in the cessation of whatever activity taxpayers most want to see continue.  This process of offering up the most, rather than the least, important uses of money when spending cuts are proposed as a tactic to avoid spending cuts is one of the most corrupt practices imaginable.  No corporate CEO would tolerate it of his managers for a micro-second.

About two years ago at Forbes I imagined a hypothetical budget discussion at a corporation that followed Congressional budgeting practices.


  1. NL7:

    Are you implying that Al Qaeda's forces wouldn't just cross the Oder River if we pulled out of Europe?

  2. marque2:

    Actually under Clinton there was a recommendation to bug out of Germany, and Clinton did act, but the Germans, who were constantly protesting us during the Cold war and telling us to leave, all of a sudden decided that it would be harmful to the German economy if we left so they begged us to stay and Clinton rescinded the order.

    Agreed though we could get out of Germany easily. Bush Jr was trying to make our frontier a bit more relevant by trying to move/increase our presence in Czech and Poland, but that has been undermined by the current President

  3. Torontonian:

    What places outside of the United States (and its territories) truly require a permanent US military presence?

  4. LarryGross:

    it would seem - we want to spend out the wazoo for our military - but we don't want to pay for it.

    If you look at ALL of our true National Defense expenditures - we spend virtually all the money we take in - in taxes yet we are told the reason we have a deficit is that we have a spending problem - but not with DOD - only with entitlements.

    this is the kind of myopic logic the GOP is following these days.

    you cannot spend 1.3 Trillion for National Dense and take in 1.5T and survive. We either need to man up and cut defense OR we need to increase taxes to pay for it. Half the GOP is opposed to the cuts and the other half is opposed to higher taxes.

    what are you gonna do?

  5. MingoV:

    What really angers me about the Republicans in Congress is that President Obama raised federal spending 37% in his first year for a "one time" economic stimulus. By not passing a subsequent budget, he was able to spend nearly as much for the next three years. Now, we've got Republicans in Congress pissing and moaning about a friggin' 1% cut! The cut should be at least 30%.

    And the whining about military spending is ridiculous. We have the least cost-effective military in history. In Afghanistan, the average cost per killed terrorist was over $100,000. We could have hired bounty hunters $10,000 per terrorist in Iraq and Afghanistan and saved hundreds of millions.

  6. Morven:

    Not helped by the fact that so many military spending decisions are not made for the benefit of the military nor its mission, but for dirty domestic political issues. A large portion of military spending is pork under another name.

    Take, for instance, the F-22, designed politically, its manufacture split across as many states and important Congressional districts as possible to buy the votes to pay for it. Never mind that that probably doubles the already ludicrously high price for the thing. Congresspeople don't care if the military needs it or doesn't need it, nor whether it's a good deal; all that matters is whether it's a big enough bribe.

    This has been happening since the beginning, of course: the USS Constitution and its sisters were deliberately made of Southern live oak chosen more for politics than practicality, as just one of an essentially unending list.

  7. Brian Dunbar:

    "We still have armored divisions in Germany."

    We have a lot of guys there, but not entire armored divisions. One Stryker regiment, two airborne brigades, an aviation brigade. Call it a motorized division, with style.

    What we have a lot of there are support guys, rear area types, supporting and sustaining operations in Asia, Africa, Mid-East. Which isn't a bad place for it - it's closer to fly a guy from Afghanistan to a hospital in Germany than one in the States.

    Of course, if we would just _stop_ prosecuting wasteful and illegal wars all over the damned place we wouldn't need REMFs in Germany and that would save us a lot of capital. Heck with what the Germans want: time to bring them all home.

  8. Brian Dunbar:

    I have read - Captain Beach's history of the Navy iirc - that southern live oak was, while difficult to work with, excellent for building ships mean to last.

  9. Morven:

    Wasn't so much that it was a bad choice in terms of making a good ship -- clearly the Constitution is doing OK with a fair bit of its original timber left -- but rather that the choice was for political reasons, not economic nor practical.

  10. Brian Dunbar:

    Not being contentious but .. can you cite that it was politics vs excellence in shipbuilding? I love having my treasured myths from child hood exploded one .. by .. one.

  11. mesocyclone:

    I think the military really does require special treatment. If we make mistakes and underfund, say, the Department of the Interior, the consequences can be dealt with later. If we underfund the military, we run much more grave risks.

    The military, of course, isn't cost efficient, because it is, after all, another government bureaucracy. But it is one of the few federal functions that meet a valid need rather than existing to pander to constituencies. We really do need a strong and effective military. And that's really expensive.

    As for having troops in Germany, and other places, many of those are there to support contingencies in other places. After all, if we just kept the military home, the world would be a much more dangerous place. That we are stuck with the mantle of global policeman is unpleasant, but in terms of federal spending, it's damned cheap at 4-5% of GDP. Beyond that, it should be affordable - it was 10% or more of GDP throughout the cold war and we did just fine.

  12. john mcginnis:

    Just remember war is a very messy business and is always better to have it played as an away game.

  13. john mcginnis:

    Just keep in mind that HHS and SS together have more than double the budget of the DoD. The reason that the DoD is going to take it in the shorts is because under DC rules 90% of their budget is listed as discretionary while the other two programs mentioned are not.

    The Fed Govt will take in $2902Bn estimated this fiscal year, the DoD budget 2013 is $672Bn. So the missive "If you look at ALL of our true National Defense expenditures - we spend virtually all the money we take in - in taxes" is a lie. The DoD budget barely reaches 1/4 of that total. Between HHS and SS they will consume half the total receipts taken in.

    Again you show you don't know a damn thing.

  14. obloodyhell:

    }}} Again you show you don't know a damn thing.

    True, but this is different from 14 kaBillion (yes, with a "B"!) times before.... how? :-D

  15. obloodyhell:

    Anyone notice how people like Larry, bitching about the expense of the military, aren't saying a word about the obvious expense of drone strikes of questionable legality? If Bush were doing it the way Teh One is doing it, they'd be screaming their heads off, calling him a "war criminal", etc.

    Larry: Go ahead. Show me a forum where you argued Bush was NOT a "war criminal" against someone claiming he was. I'm willing to be that conversation doesn't exist.

  16. obloodyhell:

    Yeah, I'd like to see that documented historical argument, myself...

  17. obloodyhell:

    True, but remember: that's how the Roman Empire really fell, when it hired the job out and stopped doing it itself.


  18. obloodyhell:

    The same thing happened a decade+ back in South Korea. With the Cold War ending, we made some moves to pull out of the place, and they fell all over themselves trying to go "What? What? You ta'ut we wuz seryus 'bout dat? Nah! Nah! Fuggedaboutit. Siddown! Sit! Sit! Have some kimchi!!"


    I think, if we're going to pull out of anywhere, it should be Okinawa. I gather it's one of those places we're least liked in reality (and I'll grant we appear to have contributed to that), and there's no reason Japan should not be shouldering its own defense expense in full, since they are clearly one of the chief targets of China.

  19. obloodyhell:

    I'm with John, above: "always better to have it played as an away game."

  20. LarryGross:

    two points:

    1. re " rather than existing to pander to constituencies." , you're not serious, right? have you ever heard of the military-industrial complex or Congressman with DOD bases or tank/aircraft plants?

    2. - defense is a core function of the national government. How much is enough? How much is more than we can afford? How much are we willing to pay for? right now our "defense" spending just about equals every penny we take in in taxes. Is that the right amount? what percent of our AVAILABLE revenues would you allocate to defense?

  21. Brian Dunbar:

    Bumper sticker slogans are no substitute for a prudent defense policy.

  22. Matt Landry:

    The problem isn't that the military refuses to prioritize, it's that they lack the _authority_ to prioritize. The stuff that the Defense Department can cut on its own authority is mostly the stuff that either induces mass pain or causes obvious problems for actual, you know, defense of the nation. The billions upon billions of procurement waste and deployment to places they'll almost certainly never be needed again? That's all directly mandated by Congress, and can't be touched.

  23. skhpcola:

    Watch out, OBH...lil Larry will get his bullshit spurter revved up and sputter about the drone strikes being incongruous to the topic at hand, as he did extensively in another thread. That puny retard is incapable of honest and intelligent refutations of any condemnations of his atrophied ideology.

  24. marque2:

    Yes and the Korean youth anti war protests were epic.

    I don't know about getting out of Okinawa, we are losing our influence in Asia pretty quickly. And Japan and China are sparring.

    Germany though, is a no brainer. And then I would say about 1/3 of the bases in the USA are useless. Is it really important to have a military base in Nebraska? I guess they defend us from the invaders from the north!

  25. john mcginnis:

    There is something about drone strikes I don' t like -- the precedence it sets. What is to stop Red China from ordering a strike against a dissident on US soil? Other than our military parity right now that is all that prevents it and we should not assume that last forever.

    Just a thought.

  26. LarryGross:

    drones are dirt cheap compared to boots on the ground and 'shock & awe'. You're not a "war criminal" because you use a particular weapon - it's the what/how/why you invade a country, kill civilians and torture innocents to get to the bad guys.

  27. LarryGross:

    John I think you have a good point but do you have the same qualms about us sending a cruise missile or a seal team to take out bad guys? The drone is just another kind of weapon - highly accurate but obvious not perfect or else we'd not have people "concerned" about "innocents".

    I just think out of the weapons to choose from they are these ones than cause less collateral damage but still they do - no question.

    the question about China - YES - I totally agree. When we go into places like Grenada, Cambodia, Panama, Bosnia there is no "declared war" and yes a good question is what if other countries did the same thing we do - AND they came onto OUR soil coming after "bad guys".

    Most people do not believe the US harbors bad guys and terrorists to start with and no other country that I know of has declared a class of bad guys called terrorists that hide in the US.

    The NeoCons would have us put boots on the ground in Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Iran without declaring war, and not so much to go after terrorist as to not let people take over those countries that we fear would be unfriendly to us and our interests. But the thing I find odd about this issue to some extent is that the people who say Obama is weak on foreign policy (in part for not putting more boots on the ground and for pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan - are the SAME ones "fretting" about drones. I mean we got 4000 of our young people killed, thousand more of our young sliced and diced and will live the rest of their lives with serious damage and lifelong entitlements to pay for them and we killed a hundred thousand or more innocent civilians and NOW we're going to worry about a half dozen or so "innocents" who chose to live in close proximity to someone who has openly committed to attacking the US?

    I look for consistency of position on these things. If someone's position is self-consistent, I can respect it even if I do not agree but if their position keeps changing because they oppose a person - like a POTUS then that's not a principled position - it's just partisan and no matter what the guy does or does not do - there's going to be the inevitable list about why he's bad.

  28. mesocyclone:

    Of course defense has constituencies, but it has a use beyond just paying money to its constituencies, unlike the much more expensive government programs. We pay almost twice as much for welfare programs as we do to defend our country, for example.

    How much is enough? That's a hard debate. But the sequester idea that we should cut defense evenly with discretionary spending is beyond stupid, and to add to that, no cuts to entitlements?

    Right now, defense spending is less than 5% of our GDP. We had no trouble growing our economy and not creating enormous deficits when it was over 10% (for most of my long life), so I don't buy that defense is that big a problem. When I started my career, we had nuclear armed Nike missile batteries defending the whole country (one just up the hill from my rented house in Malibu). We had many more air bases, filled with actively patrolling, nuclear armed interceptors, or with huge nuclear armed bombers with many in the air at all times. We had many more ships and soldiers. We were actively developing new nuclear warheads (not done for decades now) and new aircraft.

    It is easy to look at defense, see the overspending, and demand that it be cut. But all government programs will overspend, so the question has to be: how much defense do we need, not how much do we cut. How much is enough is not measured in dollars, but in capabilities. Maybe we need to be spending more.

    We face a dangerous world. There are now two nuclear powers with the capability to pretty much destroy us, rather than two in the cold war. North Korea will shortly be able to threaten us with EMP attacks that would be devastating, and Iran will be right behind them. The bipolar world during the cold war was relatively stable - because of that bipolarity. Now we have a world less stability, at the same time that weapons capabilities of enemies and possible enemies are increasing. Terrorists used to be armed only with guns and high explosives. 9-11 demonstrated that weapons of mass destruction are all over the place, and the near simultaneous anthrax attacks show that WMD's can and will be deployed against our citizens (and, btw, Anthrax is mild compared to what is easily available).

    We already gave up a low-cost-to-maintain strategic advantage won at too high a cost by
    bailing out of Iraq, while putting too many troops at too high a price into Afghanistan where the strategic value is much, much less, if not

  29. LarryGross:

    you're evading the answer guy. We take in 1.5T in revenues. How much of that do you want to spend on National Defense? Give a number. What you are doing is what the GOP is doing. You are evading the basic realities about how much money we actually have to spend. Nobody in their right mind would talk about GDP instead of real numbers about your actual revenues. What company does their budgeting by looking at productivity instead of real revenues?

    you are proving why we have a "spending" problem but no one actually wants to deal with the cuts.

    The GOP and like-thinking people live in LA LA Land on this issue and have since Bush.

    the blame entitlements is just a subterfuge to evade dealing with the realities.

    this is why we can't get to a balanced budget. the very people whom you would expect to deal with fiscal realities - won't.

  30. mesocyclone:

    I have no obligation to provide a number. I discussed criteria for decision making. To do an adequate job of coming up with a number would require a lot of study, and the idea that I or you are qualified to emit such a number without a lot of analysis is poppycock.

    But by referring to historical norms, I am providing a meaningful context for evaluating the spending. The *fiscal reality* is that we spending close to the minimum percentage of our GDP that we have spent on military in the last 60 years. That *reality* is enough to tell me that the bulk of the problem lies elsewhere. The other meaningful context is the threat situation, which has gotten worse since we did our post-cold-war cuts down to 4% of GDP.

    Now if our economy ever gets better, I suspect 4% of GDP will be adequate.

    So stop blaming "people like you." It's offensive. Why not just stick to the subject at hand rather than personalize it.

    After all, I can do it too: It's people like you who want to do mindless cuts of defense; it's people like you who drive away honest discussion by personalizing. See, ain't that fun?

  31. LarryGross:

    discussing spending as a percent of GDP without dealing with the real actual revenues is just evading the reality.

    The actual revenues are the reality you have to deal with.

    If you do not know how much of the 1.5T to spend on Defense - at the same time you blame entitlements - then you've essentially proven what the problem is.

    We go on and on about a spending problem and entitlements but the simplest of questions as to what we should spend on defense as a percent of our available revenues evokes "I have no obligation".

    Okay, tell me this. The people who say we have a spending problem - like the GOP - what do they give as the proper number to spend on Defense as a percent of our available revenues?

    if they don't have a number how can they say we have a spending problem and entitlements is the cause?

    this is bogus to the bone guy.

  32. Brian Dunbar:

    "What company does their budgeting by looking at productivity instead of real revenues?"

    You're comparing apples to dump trucks. A for-profit organization and a nation-state are not the same kind of thing, and can't be.

  33. LarryGross:

    that's entirely true. But it's also entirely true what your actual revenues are with respect to your spending.

    determining your spending based on GDP while ignoring your actual revenues is exactly how you end up in deficit.

    as a nation-state - your actual revenues is what you have available for spending - not your GDP.

  34. mesaeconoguy:

    John, let's not be mean to the Gross. As he reminded me the other day, he is a box of rocks.....

  35. mesaeconoguy:

    Here is what I will do, Larry:

    Eliminate you from the conversation.

    Because you are a moron.

  36. mesaeconoguy:

    Nor are abstractions a substitute for field experience.

  37. mesaeconoguy:

    Cost/benefit analysis is not a specialty of despots, contrary to your claim.

    Nor is your idiotic definition of "war criminal."

    Adolf Schickelgruber was killing Jews (better than the French) at an alarming rate prior to full-on WWII hostilities.

    That is why the death toll was so high.

  38. mesaeconoguy:

    Larry has a problem discerning revenues from expenses, and facts from lies (or wikipedia entries).

    He is a textbook leftist troll.

  39. mesaeconoguy:

    Well said, except that most of your points above were executed by Obama, further proving your overt ignorance.

    As I have said previously, Bush set the table for our greatly improved technology strikes, and his expansive executive power views, for a quasi-despot like Obama to come to power (with an incredibly dangerous and ignorant AG Holder empowering him) and directly threaten US citizens.

    That is what is happening right now.

  40. mesaeconoguy:

    Larry, what number do you put on entitlements?

    What's that number, Lar?

  41. mesaeconoguy:

    You're presenting a false choice, Larry.

    What amount of GDP should a society spend on entitlements, Larry?



    That's where your numbers lie Larry.

    Entitlements are destroying society.

    So how much should we give you, Larry? What's your number?

    [I'm guessing 100%....]

  42. mesaeconoguy:

    See Larry, the thing is, defense spending is far more adjustable than welfare giveaways.

    The problem with your premise is that Republicans MUST cut defense spending, because of the previously agreed upon Democrat welfare giveaways.

    That’s a false premise, which will be proven so, possibly violently.

    Welfare, including “for the greater good,” does not preclude individual rights to protect private property. That right extends to persons, possessions, and wealth.

    Intrude at great risk.

    Interpret that how you wish.

  43. mesaeconoguy:

    Larry, Socialist Insecurity is dead.



  44. mesocyclone:

    Dang, I wish you'd told me so I wouldn't have wasted my time.

  45. mesaeconoguy:

    My job, takin another 5 for the team…..

    No worries, mate.

  46. mesaeconoguy:

    determining your spending based on GDP while ignoring youractual revenues is exactly how you end up in deficit.

    No Larry, that’s not how you “end up in deficit.”

    Spending more than you take in, via taxation, and spending more than you can afford, encouraged by government programs, Lar, is how you end up in deficit.

  47. LarryGross:

    here's a real list of what we really spend. the numbers on it come from CBO tables :

    I'm not pro-entitlement or anti-DOD but I AM a fiscal conservative who believes we should be using real numbers when we talk about who spends what and how much and that we need to face the realities instead of blaming a blame game based on not real numbers but perceptions propaganda and just flat out wrong data.

    The people I most hear supporting National Defense and most argue against entitlements simply do not use real numbers. They often speak in terms of percent of GDP but it's real numbers that are causing our deficit and debt and if you are truly serious about those issues just blaming entitlements and refusing to use real data while you do it - is totally delusional.

    the Fed govt will NOT take in $2.902B in available revenues from general revenues that is available from discretionary spending - the top number is more like 2.5T. Then you DO Have to subract out the 868 billion that comes from FICA because it is not available for anything other than SS/MedA. You may disagree with FICA/SS on philosophical grounds but it don't change the reality on the ground right now that's that what you really have to spend - actually available is on the order of 1.5T.

    and when you say DOD - you're NOT including ALL of the National Defense expenditures which is things like the VA, military and civilian DOD pensions, NASA military satellites, Homeland Security.

    that pushes the total National Defense number to over a trillion easily and THAT number HAS DOUBLED since 2000.

    So IF you are TRULY SERIOUS about the budget, the deficit and the debt - you have to be willing to admit the real numbers because that's the only way you're ever going to be able to seriously figure out what to cut and how much rather than using wrong numbers that are disconnected to the realities.

    this is the problem the GOP has. They talk about a spending problem but they won't cut DOD and they won't even admit that the total we spend on DOD AND National Defense is about equal to what we spend on entitlements and the rest of govt - FROM OUR GENERAL REVENUES - NOT FICA.

    No one who is really serious is going to say that we should balance the budget by doing away with FICA/SS (a few truly delusional might but not the majority) yet when we talk about budgets, people often include the FICA revenues as if they are available to spend for something other than SS/MedA and they are not.

    If you take a moment to actually look at the real numbers for the budget - to recognize that FICA is not a revenue source and to recognize that DOD alone is not National Defense - you will start to appreciate that we cannot balance the budget without cuts to both entitlements and national defense and even then if our revenues are only 1.5T - even cuts may not get to balance.

    that's the reality. It's not libtard, left or right. It is what it is and anyone who wants to blame the budget game owes themselves the simple thing of being honest with yourself about the data.

    do you real numbers...guys.. don't play silly partisan games with phony numbers.

  48. LarryGross:

    I do not think the military lacks the authority to prioritize. I think the Congress lacks the guts to make the cuts that will result in prioritization. We should not that attitude about the military any more than we should take
    it with regard to entitlements. In both cases, we have to bite the bullet on spending. It's Congress job to do that. They are the ones that appropriate money. All the POTUS can do is cheer-lead his priorities and veto a budget he does not like - but that is very hard to do because it means it would be the POTUS shutting down the govt and even then the POTUS would risk having his veto overridden.

    we make a big deal about "free stuff" but the real problem with military spending is that each Senator and Congressman has a military base or manufacturer of military equipment or some such in his/her district and they won't vote to cut military spending if it includes the thing in their district. That's the simple truth.

    so it's not just "free stuff".... unless you want to count bloated military bases and manufacturing facilities as "free jobs" that would go away if cuts were made.

    and you see it going on right now with the sequester. Each Congressman is looking at what impacts the sequester will have on his district in terms of military spending and they won't support the sequester if it cuts military jobs in their district. that's the reality.

  49. LarryGross:

    mesa - how much sense does what you just said make? In order to CUT - you have to name SPECIFIC THINGS IN SPECIFIC AMOUNTS rather than just engage in generic anti-entitlement blather and refusing to acknowledge the National Defense role.

    when you do that - you're just engaging in Kabuki Theater..not really serious and that's the problem we have. We say we have a spending problem but we won't do the honest looks at the numbers. You cannot determine specific cuts by making a percent GDP argument. At the very least - if you are really serious - take that GDP number and convert it into two real numbers:

    1. actual dollar value 2. actual percent of available general revenues

    I assert that if you do that - THEN YOU ARE - talking about real numbers in the budget and we CAN then decide the other cuts but when you refuse to actually name a real number for ALL of National Defense or even say it needs to be cut and you say that ALL cuts have to come from entitlements - it's totally off the wall and delusional and just simply not serious.

    THIS is the reason we cannot agree on how to cut the deficit. You cannot cut the deficit if people refuse to deal with real numbers and that's our problem.