By Veronique de Rugy
I already said last Friday that if the rumors about the Ryan-Murray plan are correct, this deal seems like a bad deal for those of us who believe in fiscal responsibility. In particular, it would be a terrible idea to get rid of the sequester cuts. Thankfully, I am not alone in this campaign against it. Over at the Federalist, Sean Davis has a hard-hitting piece on the deal that he calls a “budget-busting abomination.” Among other things, he writes:
Republican lawmakers should not fall for this nonsense. Why? For starters, because the people swearing to uphold new caps ten years from now are the same ones eviscerating the caps they agreed to barely two years ago. If they can’t be trusted to keep short-term promises, why on earth should they be trusted to keep long-term ones? A great way to show you won’t be trustworthy tomorrow is to break your word today.
Another reason to reject the Murray/Ryan deal is that it is both bad politics and bad policy. Democrats have been trying for some time to undo sequestration, which suggests that unraveling it is one of their top priorities. Under no circumstances should Republicans unravel it for them without getting anything meaningful in return. Yet that appears to be precisely what Republicans are allowing to happen.
Ryan and House GOP leaders could have demanded something truly meaningful in exchange for undoing sequestration: an equivalent delay in the implementation and enforcement of Obamacare.
No kidding. In addition, over the last five years, conservatives have consistently opposed the gimmick of paying for one year of spending with ten years of pretend “cuts.” But that’s what this deal would do.
A final point; a lot of the support for the current deal comes from the misguided belief that the sequester cuts are drastic. But that’s not the case. As the Wall Street Journal (not really a bastion of doves) reminds everyone:
The appropriators and defense hawks exaggerate how severe the cuts are. The budget caps forced deep cutbacks in fiscal 2012 and 2013, but those were off the inflated spending baselines from Mr. Obama’s first two years in office. The nearby table shows that after 2014 the caps start to rise again and merely require slower than usual spending increases. Domestic spending increases by $88 billion, or 19%, from 2014 to 2021. Defense spending in particular takes a hit in 2014 but increases in 2015 and keeps rising by $92 billion to $590 billion, or 18%, in 2021.
Here is a table with the numbers:
I have a chart here that shows what defense spending looks like starting in 2013 if you are interested.
Finally, these are very small cuts when you remember that the U.S. is in the process of drawing down from two wars. Defense spending should go down, and deal or not it will continue to go down. As Gordon Adams wrote yesterday over at Foreign Policy:
Meanwhile, the Defense Department, which always wants more, will be fine with the same level of funding as last year. While the contractors complain, they have actually done very well, even with declining defense budgets. Lockheed Martin’s shares have risen 45 percent this year, for example. But the Pentagon will have greater flexibility than it’s letting on, as the “base budget” we have been talking about is not the sum total it will receive. Congress is also likely to stuff their holiday stocking with something like $90 billion in funds for the “leftovers” from the war in Afghanistan — the so-called war budget, or Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). Since most of that OCO funding is for operations, it ends up going to exactly the same accounts the Pentagon uses for operations in the base budget. So resist those siren songs about military readiness. The Pentagon will have additional space to work with, even at a lower level of funding than they sought.
To conclude, it means that any argument that the Ryan/Murray deal saves the Pentagon from horrendous cuts doesn’t hold water. This deal is not a good deal for taxpayers, conservatives, or future generations.