The charade pertaining to gays in the military—I love you, man!—is all but over, but in the meantime military apologists on the right and the left need never ask nor tell about the elephantiasis of untouchable defense spending.
Needless to say, the Tighty Righties ridiculed President Barack Obama when he dared to bitch-slap a spending freeze on just 17 percent of the budget, rather than taking a cleaver to the whole magilla. Like a guy who goes on a diet after a pie-eating contest, said a Republican Congressional spokesperson in a pithy phrase that dripped of ridicule. The critics not only pointed to the Lilliputian savings on such a small slice, but seven Republican co-sponsors of a bi-partisan commission to find ways to cut the deficit decided that was a horrible idea, if only because the President his ownself endorsed it.
Why not machete the rest of the federal pie? Because the two biggest pieces are all but untouchable: entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security; and military spending of all kinds. Like the teabagger who said to get the government’s damn hands off his damn social security, military spending gets a pass post-9/11 in the name of national security. The same conservatives who decry government spending have a blind spot bigger than a silver dollar when it comes to all things military.
Regardless of sexual orientation in Congress, when it comes to defense spending literally anything goes—and there was no better example of the futility of scrutinizing the military than Secretary of Defense Bob Gates attempts to crack down. Gates announced he was not only drop-kicking the general in charge of the F-35, the largest weapons program in the Pentagon, but he was also withholding $614 million in fees from Lockheed Martin. In 2009, Gates went so far as to deep-six the even more expensive F-22, an unheard of step in the direction of fiscal responsibility.
But don’t get too titillated by a game of pattycake over two F’ing programs. In all, the budget proposed by Secretary Gates will increase spending by $14.8 billion for a total of 708.3 million.
That sound you don’t hear is the wailing of conservatives oh-so concerned with balancing the budget. You won’t hear liberals bellyaching, either. In a post-post-9/11 world, with two wars proceeding, no one on either side of the aisle is going to say boo about the need to cut military spending.
But of course we do: we need to scrutinize the Pentagon’s budget every way from Billy Sunday to find a way to cut costs. If we don’t take scalpel in hand, then we have no chance whatsoever of achieving fiscal sanity. It’s just not possible to reduce the deficit to reasonable levels without defense spending taking a meaningful hit.
Ironically, President Obama is perhaps the first Democratic President ever with the political capital to make it so because he has been so preternaturally hawkish on Iraq and Afghanistan. After pumping up the volume in Afghanistan, no one without a soft head can accuse him of being a softie on defense. Obama could actually pull this off.
Just don’t wait for the Republicans to join a bi-partisan commission on cutting spending for defense. When it comes to military dollars, they will carry don’t ask, don’t tell to their graves at Arlington National Cemetery.