Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 17, 2011

PAWLENTY, BARBOUR SPLIT OVER DEFENSE SPENDING.... Ask the American mainstream which parts of the budget should get cut, and more often than not, one of the more common responses is the Pentagon budget. But in Republicans politics, it's not nearly this simple.

There's a contingent within the GOP that's so desperate to cut federal spending, they're willing to put defense on the table. But in the larger context, it's a fairly small contingent -- most of the Republican Party, alleged deficit-reduction goals notwithstanding, consider funding for the military off-limits. You'll notice, for example, that the House GOP is unwavering in its drive to slash spending, but only from non-defense, domestic discretionary funds.

As it turns out, this might be one of the few areas of division when it comes to the 2012 Republican presidential field, which necessarily makes it an issue worth watching.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) surprised some folks this week while campaigning in Iowa, arguing that defense cuts make sense. "Anybody who says you can't save money at the Pentagon has never been to the Pentagon," Barbour said. "We can save money on defense and if we Republicans don't propose saving money on defense, we'll have no credibility on anything else."

And sure enough, one of his top rivals, campaigning in South Carolina, pounced.

A day after Haley Barbour called for cuts in defense spending, Tim Pawlenty went the other way.

"I don't think we should be talking about cutting the Pentagon's budget," the former Minnesota governor told POLITICO after a speech at the Aiken Republican Club here. "I think we should be talking about looking for those areas where we might some efficiencies or redeploying money spent on defense to higher-priority areas within defense. In other words keep the defense budget intact, but if we find some savings, some efficiencies, some ways to redeploy money we should do that."

We're spending $700 billion a year on defense, nearly as much as every other country on the planet combined. Pawlenty wants to make sure that total "continues to grow," though he's willing to consider moving money around within the Pentagon budget. How responsible of him.

It's too soon to say whether Barbour will stick to this line, and how much pushback he'll receive. As a rule, vowing to cut defense spending isn't a winning strategy for a Republican presidential hopeful, and it's easy to already imagine the ads about those who would dare "cut funding for our military during a time of war and international terrorist threats."

But the Mississippi governor deserves credit for taking the risk, and I'll look forward to the reactions from the GOP base that claims to put spending cuts at the top of their to-do list.

Steve Benen 10:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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Not a fan of Barbour of course, but as a former lobbyist I am sure he knows full well how much useless stuff is procured at great expense by the DoD as a form of economic protectionism for congressional districts.

Pawlenty is someone who somehow manages to do a nearly heroic job of making himself look worse and worse everytime he opens his mouth. I am pretty sure he has reached Dante's eighth circle (fraud), One wonders, what self-serving act of presidential aspiration will spur him to reach the ninth (treachery)?

Posted by: Barbara on March 17, 2011 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

We're spending $700 billion a year on [strike]defense[/strike] the military

Fixed that for you, Steve. Referring to military spending as "defense" spending reinforces the frame that it's sancrosanct -- after all, who could be in favor of weakening our defense?

But far from all of our military spending is essential for defense -- useless alternate engines for fighter jets that the Pentagon doesn't need or want, for example -- and that kind of spending can and should be cut. Please don't make it harder by using the word "defense," kthxbai.

Posted by: Gregory on March 17, 2011 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

I won't burn the jiffy-pop waiting for this one to pan out. Which idiot will come out on top while gambling away the final incarnation of the middle class?!!

Tune in tomorrow...

Posted by: Trolloped! on March 17, 2011 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

WTF is there left to 'defend?'

Our freedoms?
Our Liberty?
Our rights?
Our "way of life?"

All gone - and in only 30 years.

Invaders to this country couldn't have done near as much damage as we've done to ourselves.
And all in the name of our freedom, our liberty, our rights, and our "way of life."

All thanks to the Reagan Devolution, and complicit and compliant Fourth Estate and voters.

R.I.P. U.S.A.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 17, 2011 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

At least T-Paw is consistant, he guts critical infrastructure spending to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy. We have a bridge to prove it.

Posted by: the seal on March 17, 2011 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Gold plated hammers and extra jet engines get the headlines, but the incestuous military/industrial cabal is so riddled with "abuse' that the Gordian Knot is a tangled shoelace in comparison.

Just two old, small examples: years ago a friend owned an injection molding company, making plastic forks, etc. He also sold shims to the military, for use in ICBMs, @ $5 each. He also sold them by the box- as toothpicks.

In the 60's I worked at a screen printing company. One of the things we made were the fallout shelter signs you are familiar with. We had a warehouse full of them, from the original order. 10 years later the government procurement officer was still ordering just a few hundred, at an exorbitant price. Every Christmas we sent him a bottle of scotch.

Last year I worked for the Census. We each had a large supply of envelopes to put each reply in. It was decided that we would not use them. Or the boxes of rubber bands. Or the paper clips. One wonders what the size of those contracts were. . .

Posted by: DAY on March 17, 2011 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe the TeaPartyRepubs will REALLY take their money from where other peoples mouths are and eliminate all of the SOCIALIZED medicine the military provides for the servicemen AND their families. That should leave them plenty of money for priorities like useless bombers and illegal wars.

Posted by: martin on March 17, 2011 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

There is one guaranteed way to rise to the top of the GOTP presidential nominating process....win the TeaParty part of the Republican votes. As we move full-swing into the process, the fun will be watching who goes craziest first. Bachmann, Santorum, Palin, Huckster clearly have the inside lane here, so the PawPaw, Gingrich,Mormon,Barbour group have some catching up to do and they are already hard at it. I left out Daniels because nobody knows who he is, and nobody cares. This will be a fun race to watch and I still believe the real winner, secessionist Rick Perry will emerge to clean up the pieces as a last minute savior.

Posted by: T2 on March 17, 2011 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) surprised some folks this week while campaigning in Iowa, arguing that defense cuts make sense.

Looks like Boss Hogg had a few too many Chivas and water's and veered off script! Now all that remains is to see how fast Fox "news" brands him as "unpatriotic."

Posted by: Inspector Clay on March 17, 2011 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone remember the Sgt York? That wonder of all wonders. The tank that wouldn't go through a mud puddle that congress spent bazillons on. Ok. I exaggerate, it was only millions. Who can forget the $700 toilet seats, $500 hammers, etc. It was so easy to say the military spent the money, but it was actually congress.

Posted by: Schtick on March 17, 2011 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

We're spending $700 billion a year on defense...

NO STEVE! We are NOT...

While the FY 2011 DOD budget request was for only $708.2 Billion, the DOD budget is only the starting point for defense spending. Nuke weapons programs are buried in the Energy Department budget. Other defense/military spending is buried in other departments' budgets.

If you add in the percentage of interest paid by the federal government that is attributable to military spending, our total spending on defense is in the amount of approximately $1.2 TRILLION a year!

Would anyone like to have a debate about whether we are getting our money's worth?

Posted by: SadOldVet on March 17, 2011 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

T2--Regarding Perry, I fear you are right. He has totally screwed Texas. Last session he used billions of dollars of stimulus money to balance his budget and then paraded about the country bad-mouthing the stimulus as a total although it had saed at least one job--HIS. This session Texas is looking at a 27 billion shortfall much of which will have to be dealt with in the 2013-2014 budget cycle. Perry wants to be gone by then, so he will reluctantly accept his party's draft when all the other crumbs fall off the plate.
As for the military budget, I spent twenty years in the Air Force and saw waste every single day. Has anyone ever noticed that the amount of money allocated to conduct operations for a year is exactly equal to the operating expenses for that year. Spend every cent is the name of the game when it comes to allocated funds and no commander is ever going to tell the higher ups that he needs less money to accomplish his assigned mission.

Posted by: sparky on March 17, 2011 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Pawlenty is a tool, and his position opposing defense spending cuts as a matter of principle, is brain-dead pandering.

Defense and national security is one area where we should not make cuts just for the sake of reducing spending. In this area at least, we should spend just as much as is necessary to provide the kind of adequate military and related security system that we believe necessary, and we shouldn't spend a penny more or less than this amount. But that's not to say that there aren't savings that can be realized. Barbour is undoubtedly correct that there is waste in the system. Whether it is realistic to expect any significant savings by focusing on waste is anybody's guess, but it's worth a try. As to the rest of the defense budget, we absolutely should be reviewing it to make a determination if we need to spend what we're spending.

Posted by: DRF on March 17, 2011 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

People that consider military spending off-limits should not be taken seriously at all in the budget debates (not that most of them should be anyway.)

Posted by: Neil B on March 17, 2011 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Rick Perry has everything the TeaParty wing of the GOP wants - and he's been hyper-actively courting them. He is a shiftless liar, moral-less politician, take-no-prisoners campaigner, has access to tons of TX money, the big hair ladies think he's handsome, but more importantly than all that - he's guaranteed getting all of the TX Electoral College votes - a huge quantity. Of course he says he isn't going to run...but as I said, he is a shiftless liar. He's also buddies with Palin....those two on a ticket would stir things up.

Posted by: T2 on March 17, 2011 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't think we should be talking about cutting the Pentagon's budget," the former Minnesota governor...

Drill, Tim, drill. Drill it with your big red sharpie and your tire pressure device. You gonna triple Guantanamo? Hell, it's almost time to go full Monty and promise to put liberals in FEMA camps. What a fukwit.

Posted by: m2 on March 17, 2011 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK



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