Sunday, October 30, 2011

Defense Keynesians

TPM calls them "defense Keynesians," Republicans who are eager to cut spending,... just not on anything they like.

And when it comes to cuts in defense spending, they use arguments which sound suspiciously Keynesian, arguments which they reject when it comes to spending on "health care, education, research, or safety net programs."
“What’s more, cutting our military—either by eliminating programs or laying off soldiers—brings grave economic costs,” wrote Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week. “[I]f the super committee fails to reach an agreement, its automatic cuts would kill upwards of 800,000 active-duty, civilian and industrial American jobs. This would inflate our unemployment rate by a full percentage point, close shipyards and assembly lines, and damage the industrial base that our warfighters need to stay fully supplied and equipped.”

“Should another $600 billion in cuts come to pass, at least 200,000 pink slips could be delivered to active-duty warfighters; at least 13 percent of our servicemembers will be forced out,” wrote Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) in Stars And Stripes last week. “Another 200,000 job losses will come to Department of Defense civilians working at installations across the country. We would be asking 1 in 4 highly skilled defense civilians to leave service.”

In an impact assessment last month, Armed Services Committee staff concluded that deep budget cuts — or, worse, the $600 billion trigger — would eradicate military, civilian defense, and defense industry jobs.

There’s truth to that. But where have these guys been the last 10 months?

Since they took over the House of Representatives in January, the GOP has been on a single-minded pursuit of deep cuts to almost to all other federal programs. They fought for $100 billion in immediate cuts to so called non-defense discretionary programs — education, research, health care, and others that receive annual funding from Congress — and $2.4 trillion in further cuts over 10 years to both discretionary programs and programs like Medicare, that are funded automatically.

That was the GOP agenda, despite a crippled economy, and despite warnings from economists that cutting government spending during a time of weak consumer demand would make things worse and could even risk a second recession.

Over the last 10 months, the GOP has dismissed or denied those warnings, in a number of ways. In the early days of the 112th Congress, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) touted the Republicans’ vision of a “Cut & Grow” economy — one that somehow produced new jobs as the result of a trimmed federal government.

During a February press conference House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) acknowledged that GOP-pushed cuts would likely result in public sector job losses but, he said, “If some of those jobs are lost so be it. We’re broke.”

Other Republicans stick to the notion that cutting simply implies more jobs. In March, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) knocked Democrats for failing “to produce any credible plans that cut spending in order to grow the economy.” And later, as co-chair of the Super Committee claimed “a path to credible deficit reduction is a jobs program.”

Yeah, cutting government spending is a "jobs program," except when it comes to defense spending, which Republicans love. Suddenly, when it comes to defense spending and only to defense spending, they acknowledge that cuts will make unemployment and our general level of economic activity even worse.

That's true, of course. So will cuts in health care, education, research, and safety net programs. And at a time when our only enemy is a rag-tag band of religious nuts using improvised explosives, it's hard to imagine why we really need to spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined.

But I'm just glad that the Republican Party has finally acknowledged the value of Keynesian economics. :)

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