Before the election, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney repeatedly accused President Barack Obama of wanting to gut the military. To no one's surprise, this claim became a conservative media talking point, and Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan repeated the allegation ad nauseam.
Months later, President Obama began to spin a similar narrative as sequestration got closer. He told the public that police officers, firefighters, and teachers would be fired if the sequester went through. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security's Janet Napolitano said her agency would be forced to release illegal aliens and that airport security would be crippled, delaying flights for hours on end. Newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry also warned that sequestration would seriously harm our national defense, echoing the very same claims that Romney and many other conservatives made before the election.
However, Fox News' Charles Krauthammer would have none of it. Instead, he put the White House sequester hysteria into perspective. "This is the most ridiculously hyped Armageddon since the Mayan calendar," Krauthammer said. "In terms of the gross domestic product of our economy, this is .03 percent. It's a third of 1 percent of our domestic economy."
Krauthammer added, "Here we are with a debt of $16 trillion, and the argument today is if we cut a penny-and-a-half on non-defense spending in one year, it's the end of the world."
Today, the sequester has come and gone, and the world did not end. We still have police officers, firefighters, and teachers. Illegal aliens are not being let loose on the streets. Airports are still operating. And the United States still has the mightiest military force on the planet.
Whereas many on the Right once cried to the high heavens that Obama wanted to gut the military, now they see fit to ridicule the president for overreacting. For them, the Obama administration's reaction to sequestration was embarrassing. And it was. But then again so was the Right's claim that Obama wanted to gut the military.
While it is true that the sequestration did unfairly fall heavier on Pentagon spending than the rest of the budget, it is also true that sequestration is a stupid and sloppy way to cut the budget. The truth of the matter is Republicans and Democrats should have come together to agree on specific, sensible cuts.
But it is also true that sequestration isn't really a "cut" at all. It is a slight decrease in the rate of increase. This year, the increase in federal spending will be $85 billion less than it would've been otherwise. Overall spending is still going up. Only in Washington is an increase considered a cut.
As evidenced by the Obama administration's Chicken Little cries about the sequester, the Left is reluctant to cut spending, or even decrease the rate of increase, because a large and powerful government is central to their political philosophy. They don't care that the United States government is completely broke. Every State of the Union Obama has ever given, and will ever give, is little more than a laundry list of new projects and programs the president believes the American taxpayer must spend trillions of dollars on. For Obama and the Democratic Party, it seems as if their sole priority is to help this nation commit economic suicide.
Of course, the Republican Party has been complicit in these matters, especially when it comes to Pentagon spending. All of that doomsday talk about Obama gutting the military was nothing more than a rhetorical mirror-image of the arguments that liberals make when it comes to domestic spending, namely that if one penny is cut from the budget, kids won't get an education, the elderly will not get medical care, and the poor will be forced to live on the streets and starve to death.
Despite what most Republicans say, the Pentagon's budget is set to go up. Yes, the defense budget will go down slightly during the first year of the sequester, but military spending will grow every year after that. And like all aspects of federal spending, it grows far too much.
The trillions of dollars the Pentagon spends on defense deserves to undergo the same sort of cost-benefit analysis that many Republicans want to apply to the rest of the federal budget. Seriously reducing the budget — and our debt — will require conservatives to cast a skeptical eye on all federal spending, and not just the programs they don't like.
Jack Hunter is the new media director for Sen. Rand Paul.