SOTU – WORM (What Obama Really Meant)

Something struck me about the State of the Union, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Anytime I’ve heard Obama speak, there is a part of the speech where he says something that sounds kind of good, but left me wondering what was *really* going on.  For instance, we have heard about the Catfood Commission for quite a while and the report suggested changes for Social Security that would increase the retirement age and create a benefit structure where part of the benefit payment would be based on means testing.  Back to the State of the Union, Obama glossed over the suggestions of the Catfood Commission as a way to “save” money but then he pointed to the millitary spending as a possible place to cut

Strange.

We are fighting two wars and have our millitary spread all over the world, how on earth does Obama think he can get approval to cut millitary spending without ending the wars?  Here are the bits from the SOTU Transcript that worried me: 

So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. This would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president.

This freeze will require painful cuts. Already, we have frozen the salaries of hardworking federal employees for the next two years. I’ve proposed cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action programs. The Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can do without.

Now, most of the cuts and savings I’ve proposed only address annual domestic spending, which represents a little more than 12 percent of our budget. To make further progress, we have to stop pretending that cutting this kind of spending alone will be enough. It won’t.

The bipartisan fiscal commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I don’t agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress. And their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it, in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes.

Then I ran across this report from the Brookings Institute and realized what was bothering me!  This report explains the game about to play out in Washington DC.  First, defense spending is divided between a peacetime basic operating budget and the budget for homeland security and budget to execute the wars abroad.  The part of defense spending that is “on the table” is the peacetime basic operating budget.  The Brookings report outlines ways this budget can be reduced by as much as 10% but not touch the budgets for the wars or the budget for homeland security. 

The key bit in the Brookings report is this:

So the minute that someone says, well, defense is the top constitutional obligation of the federal government and therefore it should be protected regardless, and we should make our deficit reduction out of other accounts. If we start a conversation in those terms, then a big constituency is going to come up and say let’s protect Social Security, or let’s protect college loans for students because that’s our future after all. Or let’s protect science research or infrastructural development, and you get the idea pretty soon you’ve lost the spirit of shared sacrifice that I think is essential if we’re going to have any hope of reducing the deficit in the coming years.

 So that’s the basic motivation. We’re not probably going to reduce the deficit effectively, and therefore strengthen our long-term economy and the foundation for our long-term military power, if we don’t establish a spirit of shared sacrifice.

Here is my prediction:  the peacetime operating budget for defense will be cut by some percentage and the next thing “on the table” will be SS and Medicare in order to “share the sacrifice” because, “See?  The defense budget was cut and now it is time to look for other “sacred” budgets to cut”.

3 responses to “SOTU – WORM (What Obama Really Meant)

  1. votermom January 26, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Hey, nice blog!!!

  2. ralphb January 26, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    great analysis. You’ve cleaned up and it looks great!

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