Free Markets, Free People

spending cuts

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 03 Mar 13

This week, Michael and Dale discuss the sequester, Bob Woodward, and other things.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

The defense budget

Here’s a little fact to keep in mind when considering the current cuts to spending at DoD (and let’s be clear, there is nothing wrong with appropriate cuts to defense spending), besides all the other ramifications it promises:

Defense accounts for less than 20 percent of the federal budget but already exceeds 50 percent of deficit-reduction efforts. And for every dollar the President hopes to save in domestic programs, he plans on saving $128 in defense.

And that’s without the looming sequestration cuts (keep in mind, most war fighting costs are not included in the budget) of another half trillion dollars.

Or said another way, the administration has decided that it will attempt to cut spending primarily with cuts to national defense.  There is no serious program afoot to cut back the myriad of other government agencies and branches.  In fact, many are expanding (see EPA, IRS, etc.).

As for sequestration, Democrats are bound and determined to see it through, because, you know, national defense is less important than winning an ideological struggle.

Charles Hoskinson of POLITICO’s Morning Defense reports (btw, if you don’t subscribe to it, you should):

BUT REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS are still far apart on one key issue: taxes. We caught up with SASC Chairman Levin at a breakfast Thursday and he said he’s counting on public pressure to push the GOP to accept new tax revenues as part of any solution – something they’ve so far refused to consider. Meanwhile, Levin and other Democrats won’t budge on reversing sequestration except as part of a complete package. "The dam has got to be broken on revenues, and what I believe will break it is the threat of sequestration," he said.

Shorter Levin, “we’re more than willing to hold national security hostage and see it gutted to get our way on taxes”.

It is rather interesting  approach for an administration which is hung up on everyone paying their ‘fair share’.  It seems that the lion’s share of what it will surely tout during the upcoming campaign as serious budget cutting, will come from the one Constitutionally mandated duty it has – national defense.

As for all the programs that have a future funding liability of 200 trillion dollar?

Meh.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

London rioting–are we seeing the death throes of the welfare state?

Buried deep in the New York Times story about the ongoing riots in London, the inability of the police to contain them and the fact that they’ve now spread to other cities is this paragraph:

For a society already under severe economic strain, the rioting raised new questions about the political sustainability of the Cameron government’s spending cuts, particularly the deep cutbacks in social programs. These have hit the country’s poor especially hard, including large numbers of the minority youths who have been at the forefront of the unrest.

The underlying cause of the riots had to do with the shooting, by police, of a popular activist in London.  The spread, however, is presumably now because of the “spending cuts” the Cameron government has made in an effort to address it’s very serious deficit problem.   This on the heels of the same sort of unrest and rioting in Greece when social programs were cut.

The paragraph is intriguing because of the way it approaches the problem.   It doesn’t stress the debt or deficit the UK has or the fact that the level of spending the UK is committed too in order to fund the social programs is unsustainable, it instead addresses the “political sustainability” of such cuts.

That’s a very telling point.   Substitute “political will” for “political sustainability” and you get the picture.  And frankly, that’s what it boils down too everywhere.   Do the politicians in charge actually have the political will to do what must to be done to right the financial ship of state?

What has been built by the welfare states everywhere is crumbling.  There are large irreparable cracks in their foundations.  All are showing signs of unsustainability and that is leading to internal instability.  The recipients of the largess taxed from the producers and borrowed on their behalf isn’t going to be there much longer. 

That’s the problem.  Even the rioters know that the gravy train, in relative terms, is pretty much over.  Reality, not politicians, have said so.  In fact the politicians mostly have no choice – they either have the means to continue as they have in the past or hey don’t.   And the more severely indebted welfare states are hitting that wall.

Add this to the mix though and you see how very horrific this is for the UK:

Beyond such social challenges is the crisis enveloping London’s Metropolitan Police. Even before the outbreak of violence, the police have been deeply demoralized by the government’s plan to cut about 9,000 of about 35,000 officers and by allegations that it badly mishandled protests against the government’s austerity program last winter and failed to properly investigate the phone-hacking scandal that has dominated the headlines here for much of the summer. The force now faces widespread allegations that it failed to act quickly and forcefully enough to quell the rioting at its outset over the weekend.

And of course, citizens there are left not only to fend for themselves in many cases, but have been disarmed by government to boot.

As for the poor “disadvantaged youth” at the center of the rioting?  Well it seems they may not be quite as poor or disadvantaged as one would think:

Despite a build-up in the number of riot police officers, many of them rushed to London from areas around the country, gangs of hooded young people appeared to be outmaneuvering the police for the third successive night. Communicating via BlackBerry instant-message technology that the police have struggled to monitor, as well as by social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, they repeatedly signaled fresh target areas to those caught up in the mayhem.

They coupled their grasp of digital technology with the ability to race through London’s clogged traffic on bicycles and mopeds, creating what amounted to flying squads that switched from one scene to another in the London districts of Hackney, Lewisham, Clapham, Peckham, Croydon, Woolwich and Enfield, among others — and even, late on Monday night, at least minor outbreaks in the mainly upscale neighborhood of Notting Hill and parts of Camden.

They’ve used technology to organize flash mobs of looters.   It’s anarchy and the police seemingly aren’t up to the job of stopping it.

The BBC and other British news organizations reported Tuesday that the police may be permitted to use rubber bullets for the first time as part of the government’s strengthened response to any resumption of the mayhem. David Lammy, Britain’s intellectual-property minister, also called for a suspension of Blackberry’s encrypted instant message service. Many rioters, exploiting that service, had been able to organize mobs and outmaneuver the police, who were ill-equipped to monitor it.

Rubber bullets, of course, only have an effect if police are where the rioters are.   And apparently, that’s not something they’ve been particularly successful in doing here lately.

Finally, harkening back to the fact that the UK has a serious debt and deficit problem and must cut spending, one has to wonder why it is involved spending money on things like this:

On Tuesday, the violence seemed to be having a ripple effect beyond its immediate focal points: news reports spoke of a dramatic upsurge in household burglaries; sports authorities said at least two major soccer matches in London — including an international fixture between England and the Netherlands — had been postponed because the police could not spare officers to guarantee crowd safety. The postponements offered a dramatic reminder of the pressures on Mr. Cameron and his colleagues to guarantee a peaceful environment for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

That $15 billion extravaganza will have its centerpiece in a sprawling vista of new stadiums and an athletes’ village that lie only miles from the neighborhoods where much of the violence in the last three days has taken place.

Bread and circuses?  The UK is laying off policemen and cutting defense spending, but has $15 bil to throw at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games?  One has to wonder about priorities.

All-in-all a very volatile situation which could, given the method being used by the criminals, get worse.  In the meantime expect the liberals on both sides of the Atlantic to denounce the cut backs in social spending and demand the rioting “youths” be placated.  Political will is a scarce commodity in this world.   It may indeed end up the the “political sustainability” of the cuts fall before the desire of politicians to maintain power.   Of course that won’t change the fact that the unsustainable spending bill will come due whether they or the rioters like it or not.   But perhaps, just perhaps, they can kick the can down the road just enough for them to escape the wrath and blame that will come when that can can’t be kicked anywhere any longer.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

A few points about the debt ceiling theater

First of all it’s an incredible amount of nothing except politics

"In reaching this agreement, each political party yielded to the other party’s highest-priority political and ideological interest," and fails to resolve the country’s long-term budget problems, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Monday.

Indeed, for all the high-stakes political drama and the apparent damage the months-long debate has inflicted on the political standing of both parties and the president, the compromise — what White House officials refer to as a "lowest common denominator" deal — achieves relatively little in the short term.

But, like most compromise, that’s the basis of such "deals". Unless very skillful or in negotiations with a pressure filled time limit one has to find the lowest common denominator and find it fast. And that’s precisely what this deal was – just enough to get enough votes on both sides of the aisle.

The question is, will it actually do anything about spending in reality.   The answer is most likely “no”.  Lieberman is exactly right.   It not only achieves relatively little in the short term, it mostly relies on “savings” from money never spent, only projected to be spent.   Obviously then a billion dollars not spent today could add up to many billions down the road if in fact it had been spent.  So when you see huge numbers like 500 billion, remember that over 10 years the real cut is probably 50 billion.  Or, for most numbers seen projected over 10 years, you can reduce it by a factor of 10.

Here’s the crux of the deal –

In the government’s 2012 fiscal year, the cut would be $21 billion, or less than 1% of a nearly $3.7-trillion federal budget, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The bulk of the projected $2.1 trillion or more of cuts does not start kicking in until after the next election when a future Congress and president could choose to rewrite the plan — a point that many conservatives have worried about.

"Enforcement is the key to whatever we do. It’s always in the out years and it never happens," said Sen. Michael D. Crapo (R-Idaho), using the budget lingo for the latter years of a long-term deal.

I know, “wow”, huh?  $21 billion.   And in the meantime, permission to spend $2.1 trillion more.   So are you still wondering why voters have no faith in politicians of either party?

And this:

The bill almost certainly defers until after next year’s election the central choice most budget experts say the country eventually must make: higher taxes or deep cuts in Medicare, the nation’s huge and fast-growing health program for the elderly.

Of course it does.   John Boehner is claiming he got 98% of what he wanted.   Well if that’s the case, he didn’t want much.   And politically he gave away the most potent argument against this president until after the election.

Yet even with this pathetic bill we have the Civility party, that would be the Dems, out and about vilifying (remember this is the new civility – it’s much like the new math) the Tea Party with the VP calling them “terrorists”  (along with Joe Nocera in the New York Times) and probably the most absurd but honest statement coming out of the mouth of Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA):

We have negotiated with terrorists,” an angry [Congressman Mike] Doyle [D-Pa.] said, according to sources in the room. “This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.”

Uh, yeah, right.   You mean they’ve made it tougher to spend money like a drunken sailor on shore leave in Hong Kong  on money borrowed from his buddies (product idea – Democrat Barbie,  “being civil is hard”).

Finally, the “super-committee”:

A bipartisan congressional committee set up by the compromise bill is supposed to grapple with the long-term choices over the next four months. White House officials insist they see that panel as a serious opportunity to try again for a major deficit reduction deal. Their hope is that members of both parties will back an agreement rather than accept automatic across-the-board cuts in defense and domestic agency budgets.

But many in Congress, whose leaders will appoint the panel’s 12 members, believe the panel more likely will deadlock.

"I think it’s very possible, maybe even probable, that with a committee you’re going to have a 6-6 vote," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).

And, of course, should it deadlock, the meat axe will fall heaviest on defense.  And meat axe is the correct metaphor because the cuts mandated by failure to act are across the board cuts, not carefully considered cuts which will eliminate unneeded or unnecessary spending but leave critical spending alone.  Nope, we’ll see a grand hollowing of the force – again.

So, all in all, not such a grand deal after all.  But, with the smoke and mirrors show and the liberal caterwauling we’ve heard, you’d think they’d actually cut some real money we don’t have out of the current budget.

Oh, that’s right, we don’t have a current budget do we?

And why again is this crowd still in Washington DC?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Guns or butter? Saving food stamps at expense of national defense

It is becoming clearer and clearer that Barack Obama has no real intention of tackling the government spending programs that pose the greatest risk to our future financial security.   And, if he has his way, he’ll certainly agree to some cuts in spending, to at least give himself some political cover and the ability to claim he’s engaged.  But if there are going to be any spending cuts, I think we all know where they’ll be if he gets his way:

“I think what’s absolutely true is that core commitments that we make to the most vulnerable have to be maintained,” [President Barack] Obama said. “A lot of the spending cuts that we’re making should be around areas like defense spending as opposed to food stamps.”

That’s not the first time recently he’s voiced that theme:

During his first-ever Twitter town hall meeting Wednesday, Obama said the Defense budget is so large that even modest cuts to it would free up dollars for other federal programs.

So it isn’t conjecture to say that his target is defense and his plan is to spend what is ‘saved’, not pay down the debt.  I also think it is quite clear that he plans to drastically reduce defense spending in a time we’re involved in three wars (how’s that “weeks, not months” war going?  5 months, counting and no end in sight), and defense commitments globally.

Of course you can always rely on the left to support such an idea.   Ezra Klein tries to be “objective” about it, but it is clear what the intent of his “the US military in two charts” post is about at the Washington Post.  Klein has taken the charts from The Economist.  Let’s take a look.  Chart one shows military spending as a percentage of all military spending in the world:

military spending pie

 

Another way to break it down is US 43%, rest of the world 57%.   Or there’s a whole lot of military spending going on in the world, and we do a lot of it.

But we’ve known that for decades.  What the chart doesn’t tell you, for instance, is how much China’s spending has increased.  China’s defense budget for the past few years has seen double digit jumps, with the only year in single digits being 2010 when it only increased the budget by 7.5%.   This year, it’s back in double digits at 12.7%.   So that wedge you see in this static chart is a rapidly growing wedge.  As China’s economy has heated up over the years, so has China’s military spending.  

Russia too is increasing its spending on defense.  It plans on spending $650 billion on its armed forces over the next 10 years. 

France, on the other hand, has been cutting its level of military spending consistently over the years since 1988.  But a country that isn’t cutting its spending and which now spends more of its GDP on the military than does France, is Iran.

The point, of course, is that while it is evident that we spend an inordinately larger amount than any other country on defense, we’ve done that because we’ve assumed an international role that others can’t fill or we don’t want them to fill.  

And that’s an important point.   One reason that we’ve generally seen a peaceful 50 or so years (with most wars being of the regional, not world wide, type) is because we’ve been the country which has shouldered the burden of keeping the peace.   Peace through strength.

Obviously there is certainly an argument that can be made that we shouldn’t have to shoulder that burden and it’s time we gave it up.   But as soon as you say something like that, you have to ask, “but who will fill the role”?

Certainly not the Third World Debating society known as the UN.   They’re inept, corrupt and incompetent.   And certainly not NATO – as Libya has proven, they can’t get out of their own way.

So who keeps Russia in its place and stands up to China as that country flexes its newly developed muscle?   What about Iran?   Or North Korea?

That’s the problem with being about the only country standing of any size after a world war. 

So we have to ask ourselves, is it in our best interest to back out of our pretty dominant role and cut back drastically in our spending in that area?   If we answer yes, we have to ask who we trust to pick up that slack.   I know my answer to that – no one.   But rest assured that power vacuum will indeed be filled.   A dilemma for sure.

Second chart:

military personnel

 

We lead the world in spending but do not have the largest military – not by a long shot.  In fact, our entire military is just a bit smaller than the Chinese Army alone.  Looking at that, and considering the spending chart, what would it tell you? 

It would tell me we spend the majority of our money on technology.  It costs money – and a lot of it – to maintain our level of superiority.   We spend it on things like 5th generation fighters, state-of-the-art naval vessels, and the like.   Programs that are designed not only to give us the technological edge on the battlefield, but also to deter would-be enemies from even trying, given their inability to match our capabilities.   It is obviously an intangible – we can’t really measure how much this has saved us from brutal and even more costly wars – but with the budget battles and the fiscal crisis, we’re in a position where we certainly have to clearly state our priorities.  Obama has stated his.

Is there room in our defense spending to make some cuts.   Yes, of course there is.  

But let’s be clear, to quote Obama.   Defense spending is 4.7% of GDP and it is approximately 20% of the federal budget.  But it is time for a third chart:

 

800px-U.S._Federal_Spending_-_FY_2007

 

Entitlements (i.e. “mandatory spending”) total 56% of our budget – and growing.  And we’ve so overspent that we’re spending 6% on interest alone.  So 62% of the budget – as designed by those brilliant legislators we’ve elected decade after decade – is untouchable by law.   That leaves 39% that these yahoos want to “balance the budget” on.    The elephant in the room is ignored to go after the dog.  And only part of the dog. We have a president who prefers the other end of the dog to the part that has teeth.

All of that to get to this question – Obama talks about core commitments in his first statement above:  Is it a core commitment of the government of the United States to protect and defend the citizens of the country as outlined in the Constitution of the United States, or is it a core commitment to take other people’s money and redistribute it?

Because that’s the choice we’re talking about here.   Make the commitment to national security and, within reason, the cost that entails, or, as Barack Obama seems comfortable with doing, throw it under the bus in favor of redistribution of income instead.  While serving what he calls the “most vulnerable” he’ll make us all vulnerable.

More on this subject later, but that’s a pretty good start to the discussion.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 17 Apr 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss this week’s battles over the budget.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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Is a government shut down gaining favor among voters?

Apparently, according to a Rasmussen poll, a majority think a government shutdown would be a good thing if it led to deeper cuts in spending.

I’m not sure how seriously to take this in light of other polls which say Americans want cuts but not to any number of our most expensive entitlements.

That said, let’s look at the numbers in the Rasmussen report.  Again, as far as I’m concerned, the key demographic here is “independents”.  They’re the swing vote in any national election.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of Democrats say avoiding a government shutdown is more important than deeper spending cuts. Seventy-six percent (76%) of Republicans – and 67% of voters not affiliated with either of the major parties – disagree.

That works out to 57% of the total saying that deeper spending cuts are more important than avoiding a government shutdown.

To most that would mean the GOP is on the right track pushing deeper cuts.

Oh, and one little note here, just in passing – all of this could have been avoided if the Democratic Congress had done its job last year and passed a budget.  As it turns out, I’m glad they didn’t because just like the health care bill, I’m sure we’d have been stuck with an expensive monstrosity.  But what’s happening now about “government shutdown” is a direct result of Congressional Democrats not doing their job. 

That said, let’s look at another interpretation of the numbers from Rasmussen.  This one shows the divide between “we the people” and “they the politicians”:

There’s a similar divide between Political Class and Mainstream voters. Fifty-two percent (52%) of the Political Class say avoiding a shutdown is more important than deeper spending cuts. Sixty-five percent (65%) of Mainstream voters put more emphasis on spending cuts.

Seventy-six percent (76%) of Political Class voters say it is better to avoid a shutdown by authorizing spending at a level most Democrats will agree to. Sixty-six percent (66%) of those in the Mainstream would rather see a shutdown until deeper spending cuts can be agreed on.

Most of those in the Political Class (52%) see a shutdown as bad for the economy, but just 38% of Mainstream voters agree.

So … what is it going to be GOP?  Stick with your guns or cave?

BTW, using the Rand Paul “we spend $5 billion a day in government” standard, a shut down sounds like a money saving opportunity doesn’t it.  Call each day a defacto spending cut.  10 days, $50 billion. 
 
I like it.

~McQ

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Year 3 of Obamanomic brings us $1.5 trillion more of debt

Or so sayeth the CBO.  Good thing they waited until today to announce it.  Otherwise we might have heard snickering and outright laughter during the SOTU when our deficit-hawk President talked about how serious he was about reducing the deficit and the debt.

The budget deficit is now estimated to have widened this year to $1.5 trillion, the CBO said. That compares to a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

The increase in the deficit would bring it to 9.8 percent of gross domestic product, the CBO said, following deficits of 10 percent and 8.9 percent during the previous two years.

Do you remember how he promised to half the debt by the end of his first term in office?  Yeah?  Well that means he could run a deficit of $750 billion and keep his word.  Funny how that works out, huh?

The CBO’s projections assume that current laws remain unchanged. If the nation continues on its current path, the CBO said, the total national debt will rise from 40 percent of GDP in 2008 to 70 percent by the end of 2011, reaching 77 percent of GDP by 2021.

But hey, this is all the other guy’s fault, remember?  Oh, and one more point, those of you on the left having fun with Rep. Paul Ryan’s factual response?  Make sure you go find someone who can explain the ramifications of this to you, ‘kay?  And have them point out who it is that the CBO agrees with in principle as well:

“To prevent debt from becoming unsupportable, the Congress will have to substantially restrain the growth of spending, raise revenues significantly above their historical share of GDP, or pursue some combination of the those two approaches,” CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf wrote in a blog post announcing the report.

While you’re at it, have them explain the appetite for tax increases. Wait, I’ll save you the question – there is none.  See December’s extension of the current income tax rates.  Now, given that – try to focus.  What does that leave?  Yes, they’re left with “substantially restrain[ing] the growth of spending”.  As in “no more new spending” and “cut back existing spending”.  Precisely what Ryan has been saying, isn’t it?

So when Rep. Ryan makes the point that:

Under the terms of a House resolution passed Tuesday, Ryan is to set ceilings at 2008 levels or less.

He has a good reason, one backed by the facts of the situation and not some meandering mewling from Paul Krugman.  This is the medicine for the addiction.  America has said and is saying again that the voters are not willing to give you a single nickel more until government proves it can significantly cut it’s spending habit.  No cuts, no increased taxes.  In fact, if the cuts are indeed significant enough, the perhaps no new taxes are needed at all.

Yeah, I know, living within your means like all the rest of us have to do – what a concept.

~McQ

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Debt Commission–harsh medicine?

The chairs of the Obama Debt Commission – charged with putting a blueprint together to reduce the deficit and put the government’s finances on sound footing – have released their preliminary recommendations.   And their recommendations are, as most who have monitored this situation should know, harsh.  Of course they must be – because the government has spent itself into a position where harsh and drastic measures are both necessary and called for.

Expect those that compose much of that government, at least on the left, find such austerity “unacceptable” in the words of Nancy Pelosi (whose PAYGO has been so instrumental in preventing this situation from being worse /sarc).  Before we get into the recommendations, let’s get one thing clear:

Those changes and others, none of which would take effect before 2012 to avoid undermining the tepid economic recovery, would erase nearly $4 trillion from projected deficits through 2020, the proposal says, and stabilize the accumulated debt.

That’s $4 trillion from a projected $10+ trillion in projected deficit spending over the next 8 years.  So we’re still talking about years of deficit spending.  And not one dollar will come off the debt – it will only “stabilize” it.

The point is that if doing what is necessary to cut the deficit spending of the next 10 years by 40% is “unacceptable”, imagine what any solution given to tackle the debt will be.  Paul Krugman calls the recommendations “unserious”. 

Really?  Is there anyone out there who doesn’t understand that there is absolutely nothing “unserious” about the problems we face or the fact that to solve them drastic spending cuts are necessary?   Krugman is apparently incensed that the recommendations involve 75% spending cuts and 25% tax increases (the tax increases are essentially the elimination of deductions, the lowering of taxes across the board and the broadening of the tax base).

But how in the world do you stop deficit spending if you don’t drastically cut spending itself?

The commission chairs recommend cuts or changes is all areas – entitlements, defense, non-discretionary spending, discretionary spending.  Some thing sure not to please anyone.   For instance, they recommend raising the retirement age on Social Security for future retirees, as well as cutting benefit increases.  In defense, their goal is 100 billion in cuts.  As I’ve said before, defense cuts can be made and should.  Just so it is fat and not muscle that goes.

The plan is harsh medicine for the minority that believe that government is the answer to everything.  And, as you’ll see (just watch) they will fight these recommendations tooth and nail.  Republicans, on the other hand, have reacted cautiously.  I’m not sure why.  They’ve talked about cuts in spending and simplifying the tax code for years.  Here’s a commission talking about both and recommending they be done.

Politics, fingers in the wind, and ideology begin to emerge.  What the chairmen have done is taken the discussion from a nebulous “we’d like to see spending cuts” to “put up or shut up” with specific recommendations.

It is going to be instructive to see how both parties and the president react.  It is the latter, in particular, I’m interested in watching:

Mr. Obama created the commission last February in the hope it would provide political cover for bold action against deficits in 2011. His stance now, in the wake of his party’s drubbing, will go a long way toward telling whether he tacks to the political center — by embracing such proposals — or shifts to the left and leaves them on a shelf.

Anyone – who votes for “leaves them on the shelf?”

~McQ

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Defense: cut cost, not capability

One of the eternal claims of the left is that there is much that can be cut from the defense budget. Shockingly they’re right. At least in a meta-sense. There isn’t a government bureaucracy anywhere in government that can’t comfortably be cut, despite claims to the contrary. Defense is no exception. Secretary Gates plan to cut 100 billion from the Defense budget is both necessary and laudable.

But here’s the catch. Those cuts must address fat, not muscle. They must cut costs, not capability. We must address any cuts made carefully and in a way we ensure our future viability in a very dangerous world.

We also need to understand that whether we like it or not, we have the dominant leadership role in the free world. Abdication of that role could have catastrophic results for our nation and our allies and, in fact, for freedom around the globe.

Those are the facts.  And we need to understand that when the defense budget is addressed, a scalpel instead of a meat axe should be used. While it will be tempting to cut expensive programs as a means of achieving short term spending goals, their absence could, at some point in the future, lead to our defeat.

Take the F35 program for an example. The F35, known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is a 5th generation fighter that will replace many of our present day 4th generation fighters, such as the F16, F15 Strike Eagle and A10 (all designed in the ‘60s and ‘70s).  It is an expensive airplane. But there are reasons why it is expensive and those reasons are sometimes hard to explain to those only focused on the bottom line. But the fact that our potential enemies, Russia and China, are busily developing versions of their own 5th gen fighters should tell us about what sort of priority a program like that should have. Scrap heap isn’t one of them.

A fifth generation fighter is quite an upgrade from the 4th gen fighters we now have in that they include advanced stealth, exceptional agility and maneuverability, sensor/ information fusion, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.  And these result in far greater survivability, situational awareness, and effectiveness for war fighters, as well as improved readiness and lower support costs.

The cost of the F35 appears higher than 4th gen fighters because the F35 comes as a package with all its mission equipment included on board – an important point that is rarely seen in discussions of cost. This puts the cost in line with current 4th Generation aircraft which do not carry their mission equipment in their price  (Targeting Pods, Jammer, EW System, Fuel Tanks, Infrared Search and Track and other systems). Currently that price is about $60 million a copy in 2010 dollars. And Lockheed Martin, the supplier, has transitioned to that fixed cost per copy 2 years early.

Many would like to argue that austerity precludes paying for such programs. They claim we can do this on the cheap by modifying 4th gen fighters and extend their life.  But consider this –in combat configuration, the F-35 outperforms all advanced fourth-generation aircraft in top end speed, loiter, subsonic acceleration and radius. Additionally, it is comparable or better than the best fourth generation fighters in aerodynamic performance in all within-visual-range categories and the F-35 outperforms all fourth-generation aircraft in both the “Within Visual Range” and “Beyond Visual Range” air-to-air combat arenas.

The  5th gen fighters of Russia and China will also out- perform today’s fighters. The question you have to ask is would you want your son or daughter in the cockpit of an upgraded 4th generation fighter facing that sort of threat? The obvious answer is no.

Defense cuts must be made. That’s the reality of this era of austerity. But it doesn’t have to be a conflicting priority to fielding the best for our future national defense and security obligations. Intelligence and the future needs of the nation must be factored in to the cuts anticipated in the defense budget or we could put our military and our nation at a terrible disadvantage in coming years.

~McQ

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