The bitter fight over raising the ceiling on the national debt was resolved only by authorizing a joint bi-partisan congressional committee of 12 members to propose budget cuts of $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The deadline for the committee is November 23, 2011, with implementing legislation to be enacted by both houses by December 23, 2011. If no legislation is enacted, the law resolving the debt ceiling deadlock provides that $500 billion will automatically be cut from military spending, and another $500 billion cut from non-military spending over the next 10 years.
It seems clear now that the joint committee itself is deadlocked along partisan lines and will fail to meet its November 23 deadline, making congressional enactment by December 23 of the required budget cuts almost impossible. Efforts have begun, mainly by Republicans but including some Democrats, to somehow enact a cancellation of the required $500 billion sequestration of military funding, perhaps offsetting it by additional sequestration of non-military spending.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military, and President Obama’s new defense secretary Leon Panetta, have told Congress that allowing the sequestration to proceed would devastate the U.S. military. But is that really true? The military budget for 2012 alone is nearly $1 trillion dollars, more than was ever spent at the height of the Cold War. The mission of the Department of Defense has grown from mere national defense to the projection of U.S. power around the world.
Efforts to circumvent the required sequestration of military funding should be opposed for at least two distinct reasons. First, Congress must accept its responsibility and commitment to cut the federal deficit and national debt. The main obstacle to doing so is Republican intransigence on increasing any taxes, even those targeted exclusively at millionaires and billionaires.
To take the pressure off Congress to fulfill its fiscal obligations would be irresponsible and a mistake. Republicans must be pressured into negotiating a deal that includes both spending cuts and tax increases. We cannot continue to fund 40% of all federal spending with borrowed money.
Second, if forced into effect, the sequestration of $500 billion of military funding over the next 10 years would force the military-industrial complex of the U.S. into a much needed and long-overdue prioritization of military spending, and the elimination of that which is least necessary to U.S. national security. American taxpayers should no longer be required to fund the complete wish list of the U.S. military.
All belts must be tightened if federal spending and budget deficits are to be reduced. We can start by ending the garrisoning of U.S. military forces in Germany, South Korea, and other expensive locations throughout the world. The home base for all U.S. military forces should be in the United States.
The American people must stop accepting excuses from members of Congress on why they can’t agree to reducing federal spending, borrowing, and the deficit. If the only way to do that is sequestration, then we should welcome it.