Avoiding the defense cliff

U.S. Army/Matthew J. Wilson

Missouri National Guardsman Cadet Andrew Cully leaps from the top of the rappel tower during part of the Guard's first Air Assault School on Camp Crowder, Mo., March 8, 2012.

Article Highlights

  • One silver lining to the fiscal cliff deal: a 60-day reprieve from sequestration.

    Tweet This

  • Republicans need to separate national security needs from larger program of fiscal reform.

    Tweet This

  • With control of House, Republicans do have what it takes to defend defense.

    Tweet This

There is at least one thing to like about the tax-raising, can-kicking deal that avoided the fiscal cliff: It gave the U.S. military a 60-day reprieve from the consequences of sequestration.

Considering that House Republicans don’t have the votes to force the Senate or the White House to get serious on entitlement reform, that’s a decent consolation prize – even better than reducing the tax bill from $800 billion or more to $600 billion. Somewhere, Ronald Reagan is smiling. The military he bought – which is still the one that’s out there fighting in Afghanistan and otherwise patrolling the perimeters of the Free World – will be able to carry on for a bit longer.

And those who style themselves Reaganites might remember this when the debt ceiling showdown rolls around. The president is determined to raise taxes and the Senate Democrats are determined to fully fund every entitlement – they won’t even entertain a more realistic inflation mechanism. And they just won the fiscal cliff fight with $43 dollars in new taxes for every $1 is spending cuts, as well as a bunch of “stimulative” pork and tax loopholes. Even if that’s supposed to be a high watermark for them, it’s a pretty high watermark.

Yes, Obama needs debt ceiling relief more than he needed to avoid going over the cliff. But though entitlement reform can’t happen too soon, it can’t happen soon enough to prevent the catastrophic collapse of American military power that was already underway.  In sum, Republicans need to reorder their near-term priorities and to try to segregate national security needs from the larger program of fiscal reform.  They certainly can’t expect to get serious action on entitlements while the Democrats hold both the Senate and the White House.

They might, however, be able to save a range of core of military capabilities that America is likely – indeed, certain – to need in the future.  It would also be a critical first step toward reestablishing peace-through-strength conservatism as a core principle of the Republican Party.

It’s also an achievable political outcome, even for a congressional minority, as the Fiscal Cliff dance shows: Fear of defense sequestration was not enough, in the end, to force through substantial fiscal and entitlement reforms, but the McConnell-Biden scrum that produced the final deal did protect the Pentagon. With continued control of the House in one hand and the Constitution in the other, Republicans do have what it takes to defend defense until they can attack the entitlement state.

 

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Thomas
Donnelly

What's new on AEI

AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters
image A nation divided by marriage
image Teaching reform
image Socialist party pushing $20 minimum wage defends $13-an-hour job listing
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 20
    MON
  • 21
    TUE
  • 22
    WED
  • 23
    THU
  • 24
    FRI
Monday, October 20, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Warfare beneath the waves: The undersea domain in Asia

We welcome you to join us for a panel discussion of the undersea military competition occurring in Asia and what it means for the United States and its allies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 | 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters

AEI’s Election Watch is back! Please join us for two sessions of the longest-running election program in Washington, DC. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 | 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
What now for the Common Core?

We welcome you to join us at AEI for a discussion of what’s next for the Common Core.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, October 23, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Brazil’s presidential election: Real challenges, real choices

Please join AEI for a discussion examining each candidate’s platform and prospects for victory and the impact that a possible shift toward free-market policies in Brazil might have on South America as a whole.

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.