Libertarians and liberals should join forces to reduce military spending

Posted by John Grooms on Wed, Aug 17, 2011 at 2:36 PM

With budgets and national priorities up in the air, this is a great time, or could be, for the liberal/libertarian Strange Bedfellows Coalition we’ve wished for in the past to get organized and tackle military spending. It could happen, if the politicians involved had the nerve, and creativity, to pull it off.

As evidence, consider an unexpected, wonderful new piece written by Thomas Ravenel, the Republican former Secretary of the Treasury in South Carolina. Ravenel is libertarian through and through, which means many progressives disagree with him on a number of issues. But not this time, as Ravenel’s libertarian dislike of empire-building and support for big budget cuts meshes perfectly with the views of “left-liberals” who want to start dismantling the U.S. empire, and who are also being forced to consider national debt problems. Here’s the beginning of Ravenel’s terrific essay:

Why do we have 227 military bases in Germany, 124 in Japan, and 87 in South Korea? Why must the U.S. taxpayer shoulder the cost of military defense for wealthy countries like Germany, France, Japan and England? Why should we defend South Korea from North Korea when South Korea has a GDP 35 times that of North Korea?
We have a national debt of $14.3 trillion and many so called fiscally conservative Republicans say that military cuts should be off the table. Military spending is 20 percent of our budget and represents half of our discretionary spending. The Pentagon budget has nearly doubled in real terms since 1998, and now is higher than at any time since World War II.
If our country goes bankrupt, would that be a national security issue?

Here’s why this all came up: If the new super-committee designed by the recent debt ceiling deal can’t come up with a deficit-reduction plan by the end of the year, it will trigger $500 billion in more, automatic reductions in Defense Department spending. Some members of Congress and the public — mainly “left-liberal” Democrats and libertarian Republicans — would welcome those kinds of cuts, as it would compel cutbacks in the size of our worldwide military commitments.

If libs and libertarians are going to join forces on military spending (which, as Ravenel points out, is qualitatively different from “defense spending”), they should do so quickly, before Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s scare tactics become “accepted fact.” Yesterday, Panetta said that cuts going deeper than the $350 billion already scheduled to be cut over the next 10 years would have “devastating effects” on U.S. national security. But that’s only true if you consider it necessary for America to keep pouring money into our insane collection of nearly 1,000 military bases. What deeper military cuts would “devastate” would be the “defense” industry itself, not our national security. Therefore, it would be preferable to give defense workers free job training before phasing out their positions; we don’t need to add to the nation’s unemployment woes while cutting expenses.

Panetta succeeded Robert Gates, who ended his tenure at the DOD by pissing off the defense industry and its lobbyists with a call for deeper cuts in military spending; Panetta is simply carrying water for those long-entrenched D.C. powerbrokers, which don’t want to see their fortunes diminished. For more on that issue, check out yesterday’s Washington Post column by Fareed Zakaria. In it, Zakaria explains why Robert Gates is right on the money, and rails against the Congress-lobbyists-industrialists money-go-round — or as a friend explains it, “The lobbyists pay the congress people who provide the appropriations for the contractors who pay the lobbyists who pay ... as they all sing, ‘Let the Circle Be Unbroken.’”

The Strange Bedfellows Coalition has shown tentative efforts at coming together during the past year: Sens. Patrick Leahy and Rand Paul co-sponsored a measure to rid the Patriot Act of some its most offensive aspects, and Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul co-sponsored a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession at the federal level. The time is perfect now for a broader liberal/libertarian coalition to coalesce around the issue of military spending.

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Comments (12)

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WHY NOT? SOUNDS GOOD TO ME! BUT LETS ALSO CUT THE BUDGETS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, THE EPA.DEPT OF STATE, DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY,DEPT OF ENERGY,THE BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, THE DEPARTMENT OF MINES AND MINERALS, THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,THE DEPT OF LABOR, THE INTERIOR DEPT.,THE CIA,FBI,THE DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION,THE DEA,MEDICAIDE,
IRS,FDA,FAA,NATO,UN,ECT.ECT.ECT. IT ISN'T JUST THE MILITARY THAT NEEDS CUTTING! ALL OF IT IS WASTEFUL TO SOME EXTENT! DON'T TELL ME YOU COULDN'T CUT THE BUDGET OF EVERY DEPARTMENT OR EVEN CONSOLIDATE SOME OF THEM. GET IT YET????

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Posted by 800 POUND GORILLA on 08/17/2011 at 4:53 PM

None of the so-called "triggered cuts" are cuts at all. They are just slowdowns in the increases in spending. The idea that the triggered non-"cuts" "would compel cutbacks in the size of our worldwide military commitments" shows how severely Grooms misunderstands budgets.

Here, learn ya something, courtesy of one of the guys you mention in your article:

http://paul.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1898&Itemid=69

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Posted by Hillary's Prostate on 08/17/2011 at 4:54 PM

Nice try...true libertarians will not "join forces" to "reduce spending". The way to end this catastrophic, murderous cancer on the American economy (the military) is to end the Fed. Ron Paul has said it over and over. It's time to listen to him.

Abolish. The. Fed.

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Posted by PHenry on 08/17/2011 at 10:01 PM

Yeah right.

Clinton and Obama both have had the power to substantially reduce military spending, and neither have done so. Liberal leaders have no intention of getting out of bed with the military.

If you're really serious about cutting military spending, welcome to the libertarian party. But you're not THAT serious about it, are you?

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Posted by Kevin on 08/18/2011 at 12:28 AM

Kevin, how about trying to understand the blog post before you shoot off at the keyboard? I'm not talking about "liberal leaders" -- I'm talking about the Dem. minority that is very much in favor of cutting military spending, whether you're aware of it or not. You know, the ones your conservative buds call "traitors" like Kucinich, Sanders, Waxman, Markey, etc, etc. If Barney Frank and Ron Paul can co-sponsor legislation, any combination of left-liberals and libertarians is possible. But it would take the guts to do it. And about that "welcome to the libertarian party" stuff, lots and lots of liberals have been calling for serious cuts in military spending for decades. Read a book for crying out loud.

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Posted by John Grooms on 08/18/2011 at 10:30 AM

>> Read a book for crying out loud.

John, did you read the "When a cut is not a cut" article by Ron Paul? If so, why do you insist on calling the triggered increases "cuts"?

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Posted by Hillary's Prostate on 08/18/2011 at 10:36 AM

As a libertarian, I say "do the math." How many libertarians are there in Congress? Democrats owned the house and senate by huge margins from 2009-2011. Why wasn't this done then? Proposing a budget in those two years would've been a start, but they never did. Acting like this debt crisis just appeared out of nowhere and took everyone by surprise in 2011 isn't going to work. Sorry.

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Posted by jr55399 on 08/18/2011 at 10:50 AM

Hey Grooms, I understood your blog post perfectly.

Protip: If you're trying to reach out to libertarians, try not to go out of your way to insult them. I'm not even a conservative. I don't have "conservative buds". Ignorance like yours is the reason libertarians don't want anything to do with people like you.

Libertarians are tired of the republicans and the democrats rehashing the same tired talking points and paying lip service to libertarian ideas to get swing votes.

You already have a reputation in Charlotte as being an incredibly ignorant hack. Way to go out of your way to prove that.

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Posted by Kevin on 08/18/2011 at 5:10 PM

"You already have a reputation in Charlotte as being an incredibly ignorant hack. Way to go out of your way to prove that."

Really? Is that why he's winning NATIONAL awards?

http://www.altweeklies.com/aan/2011-altweekly-awards-winners-announced/Article?oid=4549589#writing

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Posted by Chris on 08/18/2011 at 6:08 PM

Wow Chris (aka Grooms), you've resorted to creating fake IDs to support yourself online. What a sad little person you are.

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Posted by Kevin on 08/21/2011 at 10:59 PM

Nice try, Kevin, but if you seriously paid attention to anything beyond your own babbling posts, you would know that I have written several times on this site and am clearly not Grooms. It was on this very website that his award was mentioned not long ago, so it's hardly a little-known fact among those of us who do more than just turn to this blog to whine about liberals. Then again, whining seems to be about the only thing you libertarians (aka faux-Republicans) can do.

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Posted by Chris on 08/22/2011 at 1:36 AM

As CL Web Editor, I can confirm that John Grooms and Chris are not the same person. This thread is now closed.

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Posted by Web Editor on 08/23/2011 at 10:37 AM
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