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May 17, 2011 8:35 AM Romney takes defense cuts off the table

By Steve Benen

Ask the American mainstream which parts of the federal budget should get cut, and defense spending is usually one of the more common responses. But in Republican politics, especially at the presidential level, it’s not nearly this simple.

To be sure, there is a contingent within the GOP that’s so desperate to cut federal spending and reduce the deficit, they’re willing to put defense on the table. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was asked in January, in the context of a discussion about spending cuts, “Do you consider the defense budget sacred?” He replied, “Absolutely not.”

But in general, most Republicans, alleged deficit-reduction goals notwithstanding, consider funding for the military off-limits. Yesterday, for example, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney (R) vowed not to reduce defense spending at all if elected.

Romney said that he would be open to redirecting spending within the defense budget to ensure that it’s more efficiently allocated, and to eliminate waste. But the overall budget won’t face cuts.

“I’m not going to cut the defense budget,” Romney said in a question-and-answer session on his Facebook page.

The former Massachusetts governor acknowledged that there’s “a lot of waste” in the defense budget, and that “there’s work that we have to do with the money that we have.” But, Romney reiterated, he wouldn’t cut the overall budget.

This isn’t especially surprising. Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, back when he was an apparent candidate, said he’d gladly cut the Pentagon budget, and was immediately attacked from the right for saying so. Romney, not exactly a Profile in Courage kind of guy, no doubt wants to avoid this kind of heat.

But Romney’s pandering is impossible to take seriously. We’re spending $700 billion a year on defense, nearly as much as every other country on the planet combined. The former governor doesn’t want to reduce that total by a penny? Even with Pentagon officials agreeing that it’s time to trim their budget?

What’s more, we have a $1.5 trillion deficit, which Romney claims to care about. If he intends to balance the budget, and he refuses to consider tax increases or defense cuts, how exactly does Romney plan to close the budget shortfall? Applying profits from unicorn sales?

Postscript: Given that Romney considers this “peacetime,” shouldn’t he be prepared to make defense cuts?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • c u n d gulag on May 17, 2011 8:43 AM:

    On top of unicorn sales, he'll tax the elves - because 'The Lord elves those who elve themselves.'

    Or something like that...

    And in all fairness, we never know when we'll have the first big tank or aircraft carrier battle in over 65 years, and we must be vigilant against the USSR and Red Chin...
    What?
    Oh!
    Never miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind...

  • j on May 17, 2011 8:44 AM:

    Watching the Romney saga I get the feeling that he is pretty desperate, he seems to jump in and say things that will please the far right without ever thinking them through, however wait till
    tomorrow, after he has had some feedback he will come up with a different answer.

  • DAY on May 17, 2011 8:47 AM:

    There is an unspoken preamble to ANY politician's response to ANY question:

    "From the perspective of MY political aspirations, the answer to your question is. . ."

  • Danp on May 17, 2011 8:53 AM:

    The former Massachusetts governor acknowledged that there’s “a lot of waste” in the defense budget

    Follow up question: After cutting the waste, what do you need the extra money for? Is there a particular area Congress has refused to fund in the military? Feel free to explain in detail.

  • Mudge on May 17, 2011 8:57 AM:

    Maybe we should reconfigure the 2011 armed forces to fit the times. No other countries have functional navies. Rethink the surface fleet requirements especially. Fold the Air Force back into the Army (see Robert Farley). In the age of drones and missiles, the need for pilots and the costly safety level required for the planes they fly are diminished. Stop two (and a half) wars. Lots to be saved without any real loss in capability.

  • walt on May 17, 2011 8:59 AM:

    The TV ads that politicians once wrote now write the politicians. We can never cut defense because freedom isn't free! This is the GOP's fetid history in a nutshell, where hollow men like Romney must always obey and respect the monster they helped create.

  • Gregory on May 17, 2011 9:02 AM:

    Of course, one of the reasons Romney and the Republicans are able to get away with such flim-flammery is that so many journalists and pundits are suckered into adopting the Republican frame by calling it the defense budget instead of the military budget.

    Who would cut defense? No one. The military budget, on the other hand, is something else. Let's not support the Republican framing by using the word "defense."

  • martin on May 17, 2011 9:08 AM:

    Following Gregory, let's change the Dept of Defense back to The Dept of War as was the case before that Commie Roosevelt got it all sissified. Real men want war!

  • chi res on May 17, 2011 9:46 AM:

    Romney, not exactly a Profile in Courage kind of guy

    Love, simply looove, the understatement.

  • ComradeAnon on May 17, 2011 10:13 AM:

    Romney is a Gerald Ford kind of guy. He just verbally trips all over himself.

  • beejeez on May 17, 2011 10:57 AM:

    Fact is, there's hardly any willpower to trim Defense in either party; it's untouchable because of the pork benefits and insulation from soft-on-terra criticism it provides incumbents. What's more, every dime you cut will drive up unemployment. I wish there were a good answer for this, but it's not even conceivable until the economy returns to normal, if it ever does.

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