Spending More and More to Protect Less and Less

The U.S. government is spending more and more to protect less and less. What is meant by this is that Pentagon and militarily-related spending is consuming a larger share of the discretionary spending pie and the domestic spending share of the pie is dwindling. President Barack Obama has even bragged that discretionary domestic spending is at the lowest level since the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower.

President Obama is now dramatizing the impact of a $85 billion sequestration of FY2013 spending. The $85 billion represents about two percent of the FY2013 budget and if Obama can’t find two percent to cut, it bodes ill for achieving significant spending cuts in the future.

The spending dilemnia is deepened because Obama has proven to be a strong opponent of militarily-related spending cuts. His prior secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, advised Congress that sequestration of $600 billion in military spending over ten years would be “disastrous” for the military services. Obama, himself, has not tried to make the case that achieving a major reduction in the deficit will require deep cuts in militarily-related spending. Besides Pentagon spending that Obama has continued to increase, two other instances of how Barack Obama has reversed himself on militarily-related spending reveal how risky it is to rely on his words and promises: 

1) Obama promised in his first presidential campaign that he would trim and make more transparent the sprawling intelligence empire created mostly since 9/11; however, as concluded in a PBS Frontline program, President Obama has done neither.

2) In a speech early in his presidency in Cairo, Egypt, Obama presented a shining vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. Except for a reduction in nuclear warheads negotiated with Russia, virtually everything else Obama has done on nuclear weaponry will increase the number, lethality and duration of nuclear weapons. He has added many billions of dollars to modernize the nuclear weapons inventory; he has approved the construction of three more nuclear weapons facilities, which will quadruple the capacity to produce “pits” — the plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads — he has approved the construction of a new bomber, equipped to launch nuclear warheads; and he has also approved the building of a new class of nuclear-armed submarines, with a lifetime extending to 2070.

Turning to the revenue side, when Obama agreed to extend indefinitely the lion’s share of the Bush tax cuts, the general consensus is that this action will bring in only $600 billion in new revenue over 10 years. When President Obama speaks of a “balanced” approach by cutting both spending and tax breaks, he has not evidenced the stomach for trimming the big revenue-losers — the home mortgage deduction, the medical expense deduction and the generous child care credit — instead, his focus has been on fossil fuel tax breaks, and last month, he returned to a prior proposal to take away the tax break for the private planes of the wealthy. These kinds of tax break eliminations will bring in little new revenue and it is highly unlikely that a GOP-controlled House will agree to them.

In summary: President Barack Obama has set the nation on a future course in which most of whatever spending cuts are achieved will come from the domestic slice of the budgetary pie, and the new revenue stream created will fall far short of meeting the nation’s most pressing spending needs.

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