A reader pointed out recently that my commentaries as of late have concentrated heavily on the foreign policy debate currently taking place in the Republican Party. Now that the Bush Doctrine has become Obama's, a critical eye has been cast on the GOP's tendency to promote muscular foreign interventionism.
I told this reader that the argument over the GOP's foreign policy consensus is the most important debate taking place in America today. My reader disagreed, saying, no, the battle over the national debt and whether to raise the debt ceiling was the most important debate.
"Yes, exactly" I replied. He seemed confused. He's not alone.
Today, every politician says we need to significantly reduce our national debt. The Democrats' eternal answer is to cut virtually nothing and to increase revenue by raising taxes. The only thing this would do — and all it has ever done — is give Washington, D.C., the ability to spend more money. This is the reason we have such massive debt in the first place.
Our only hope for reducing the national debt lies with the Republican Party, but only a very small handful of Republicans are serious about reducing it. The current hoopla over whether or not to raise the debt ceiling is primarily a debate about capping spending, not cutting it.
Rep. Paul Ryan's controversial entitlement reform plan is primarily aimed at saving Medicare, not reducing spending. When the Republican-controlled House was given the chance to actually fight for spending cuts in April, it settled on $38 billion in "cuts" to proposed future spending, and even this bit of useless politicking was later reduced to a measly $352 million. Remember, our national debt stands at well over $14 trillion. Clearly the Republican Party of John Boehner is not serious about sizable spending cuts.
So who is? The only Republican to put forth a proposal that actually reduces spending and addresses the severity of our problems is Sen. Rand Paul. Paul introduced a plan in March that would balance the budget in five years and would reduce the debt by $4 trillion. Paul's plan sought not simply to stop or reform spending, but to cut it — the very thing virtually every Republican claims to support and agrees must happen. Paul's proposal failed in the Senate 7-90.
Sen. Jim DeMint was one of the seven Republicans who voted for Paul's bill. During an interview on WTMA's The Morning Buzz with Richard Todd last week, Todd asked Sen. Lindsey Graham about his failure to vote for the plan. The senator replied, "I'm not going to vote for any budget that reduces defense spending by over 40 percent. And I'm not going to vote for any budget that reduces our defense capabilities at a time we're under threat."
It was reported last month that the total cost of our post-9/11 Middle East wars stands at $3.7 trillion. This is just the official number, which should be taken about as seriously as Obama's "official" cost of national healthcare; $3.7 trillion is also roughly four times the cost of Obamacare, which virtually every Republican agrees America cannot afford.
The largest expense in our annual budget is entitlements. The second largest is defense spending. Republicans like Graham often go to great lengths to point out that defense doesn't really cost that much. Yet when these same Republicans are asked why the size of government and debt doubled under President Bush, what's their typical answer? We were fighting two wars.
They can't have it both ways.
Yet to date, Republicans have. In supporting the U.S. intervention in Libya, encouraging one in Syria, and advocating a permanent American presence in Afghanistan, Graham is certainly one of the more hawkish Republicans. But the extent to which his party agrees with him on foreign policy is a primary source of our debt problem, and if you asked each Republican who opposed the Paul budget their reason for doing so, chances are you would get an answer similar to Graham's.
Today, we spend more on defense than at any time in our history since World War II, and 72 percent of Americans now say the U.S. does too much around the world. The current debate in the GOP presidential primaries is whether the party will remain the Republican Party of the Bush administration — one that continues to police the world through countless open-ended commitments for questionable reasons at exorbitant costs — or become a Republican Party that believes there are practical and fiscal limits to what our military can achieve around the globe.
America's ability to finally reduce its national debt hinges upon the outcome of this debate.
Jack Hunter served as a campaign assistant to Sen. Rand Paul during the midterm election. He also co-wrote Rand Paul's The Tea Party Goes to Washington. Southern Avenger commentaries can be heard every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on The Morning Buzz with Richard Todd on 1250 AM WTMA.