Pentagon spending

Stacking the deck in favor of the Pentagon

Pentagon2

I’m going to tear my hair out if I have to hear any more false complaints about what Pentagon budget cuts would supposedly do to our security—everything from making us a “second rate” power (after what country?) or a “hollow force.”

It turns out there’s a reason we haven’t been hearing about some very real consequences of sequestration cuts on the domestic side:

It’s no accident that the fight over multibillion-dollar cuts to every government agency sounds a lot like cuts hitting one agency — the Pentagon.

The reason: It hasn’t been a fair fight.

Top officials at three domestic agencies say they were instructed by the White House not to talk about the looming sequester cuts unless their talking points were first cleared by the Office of Management and Budget.

The direction from the White House so infuriated Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski that she’s planning a hearing next Thursday to give domestic agencies a chance to make their case by inviting officials from OMB, Treasury, Health and Human Services, Education, Housing and Urban Development and Homeland Security.

“It’s been under a gag order,” the Maryland Democrat said of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet to POLITICO. “I’m against gag rules.”

The administration has made some kind of calculation that talking honestly about the devastating impact sequestration could have on our parks, roads, and schools could open up a political vulnerability. But by focusing exclusively on the Pentagon, which can easily sustain sequestration-level cuts without hurting our security, the White House is letting them dominate the debate and reinforcing an extremely narrow idea of security. Our nation isn’t going to be more secure if we gut programs that help our most vulnerable.

As if it weren’t bad enough to let the Pentagon parade around making hyperbolic statements, administration officials are huddling with weapons contractors to talk about the impacts of sequestration while forcing domestic agencies to fight with their hands tied behind their backs.

Following this debate, one would think there is no solution that doesn’t involved either damaging our security or cutting back on popular domestic programs. However, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has come up with a plan that not only avoids those problems, but also invests in job creation when it is sorely needed.

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus today outlined what they see as an alternative to the looming $1 trillion in mandatory budget cuts scheduled to take effect Mar. 1, mixing revenue and cuts to reduce the deficit.

Immediately after President Obama’s call to Congress for a temporary reprieve from the cuts, the Progressive Caucus presented its plan to offset the so-called sequestration cuts for good. The executive summary says the group proposes to raise over $960 billion in revenue through closing tax loopholes and ending tax breaks. The cuts that the Caucus members listed for the chopping block all come from the Pentagon, rather than the even split between military and domestic programs currently set to take place.

Congress could end this entire debacle now by passing the CPC plan, which experts have endorsed as a reasonable way to deal with this budget problem. Unfortunately, the White House and much of Congress won’t entertain such a commonsense solution.

If the domestic agencies that do work that matters to us can’t speak up on their own behalf, we need to chime in. The Pentagon shouldn’t get to dominate this debate on spending. Click here to tell your representatives to support significant reductions in Pentagon spending. 

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