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When the Spending Reduction Act of 2011 was unveiled by House Republicans Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), U.S. News and World Report called it “eye-popping,” referring to the bill’s attempt to rein in government spending by $2.5 trillion over the next 10 years. Rep. Jordan, who is the Chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), explained the need for such sharp cuts:

This mountain of debt, nearly the size of our entire economy, threatens to create a whole new financial crisis. Every day we refuse to change course and instill some fiscal responsibility, the problem grows ever larger.

Rep. Garrett commented, “This bill represents the first step in the process, not the last.” Sen. DeMint concurred:

The Spending Reduction Act begins the difficult task of shrinking the Federal bureaucracy that threatens our future prosperity. Congress must take the steps now to balance the budget, pay off our debt, and preserve freedom for future generations.

More than 100 cuts are recommended, including:

  • reducing the federal workforce by 15 percent
  • eliminating all remaining “stimulus” spending
  • privatizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
  • prohibiting any funding of the implementation—or legal defense—of ObamaCare
  • eliminating subsidies

Of note was eliminating subsidies for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting (CPB) which was suggested on this website earlier this week, with the author concluding that “the permanent solution for freedom is to pull it [CPB] out by the roots: abolishing the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, and thus eliminating its funding altogether.”

Careful observers of the announcement by Garrett, Jordan and DeMint, however, noted that the proposed cuts “would reduce current spending for non-defense, non-homeland security and non-veterans programs to 2008 levels.” [Emphasis added.] This reflects the socially-conservative bent of the RSC, which “has always pushed for significant cuts in non-defense spending,” supporting instead cuts in “pork” spending in order to balance the budget.

But the day is long past when such cuts, even if enacted, would have any appreciable effect on the annual anticipated “trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see.”  To limit the conversation to non-defense spending falls into the playbook of the military-industrial—and the military-—complexes. As Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) points out, “The total expenditures to maintain our world empire are approximately $1 trillion annually, which is roughly what the entire federal budget was in 1990!”

We spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined, and far more than we spent during the Cold War. These expenditures in many cases foment resentment that does not make us safer, but instead makes us a target.

We referee and arm conflicts the world over, and have troops in some 140 countries with over 700 military bases…[this spending has] nothing to do with the security of the United States….

Eric Margolis outlined the enormous sums involved in “defense” spending: “Pentagon spending [is] $880 billion. Add secret ‘black programs’ (about $70 billion), military aid to foreign nations like Egypt, Israel and Pakistan (including bribes), 225,000 military “contractors” (mercenaries and workers), and veterans’ costs. Add $75 billion for 16 poorly functioning intelligence agencies with 200,000 employees who keep tripping over one another.”

So far, for the RSC at least, considering military spending cuts is off-limits. For them, it is the current “third rail” (touch it and you die) of politics. But that is about to change. As noted by Anthony Wile of The Daily Bell, “If the Republicans do not seize on the issue, it will be thrust upon them.” Even some military hawks are having second thoughts about the massive and ever-escalating military spending. Consider comments from Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) on the House floor:

It is time…to speak out publicly, Mr. Speaker. We need to become more engaged in the issue [of wars and their costs] and make our feelings known.

[Regarding Afghanistan my military advisor, a retired general] asks, “What is the end state we are looking to achieve, measures of effectiveness? What is our exit strategy?” [He asks,] “What do we say to the mother and father, to the wife of the last soldier or Marine killed to support a corrupt government and corrupt leader in a war that cannot be won?’” It is time that Congress and the American people really look at what is going on and what war really means.

Ron Paul couldn’t agree more: “There is nothing conservative about spending money we don’t have simply because that spending is for defense.” He continues:

No enemy can harm us in the way we are harming ourselves, namely bankrupting the nation and destroying our own currency. The former Soviet Union did not implode because it was attacked: it imploded because it was broke.

We cannot improve our economy if we refuse to examine all major outlays, including so-called defense spending.

A careful look at the budget-cutting proposal offered by the GOP reveals several points. One, even if it were adopted in its entirety, it would cut spending by only $250 billion a year, just a quarter of what is needed to close the deficit. Two, the bill plays into the hands of the Democrats who largely placed the Republic at such financial risk over the past two years and then left the mess created to be cleaned up somehow by the Republicans. Failure by the Republicans to do precisely that will inure to the benefit of the Democrats in the upcoming in 2012 and 2014. Third, the bill limits the debate within certain parameters, with defense spending off-limits, as noted. Finally, unless defense spending is slashed, along with the rest of Leviathan, then spending will continue until default.

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