Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The National Security Party

Now we have William Cohen, Republican from Maine, who served as SecDef under Clinton, blasting the Republicans for endangering US national security with the party's anti-tax mania.  His sanity here is most welcome, but the GOP has been bad for American national security since, well, at least 2001.  Obsessing about Iraq even as the World Trade Center was burning, the Bush Administration quickly took its eyes off of Afghanistan and focused on Iraq. 

Yesterday's twitter debate about Rummy only slightly addressed the challenges of starting a war for trumped up reasons, planning poorly for it, and passing the costs down the road.  Cutting taxes while fighting two wars turned out to be, unsurprisingly, bad for the budget, and, as any grand strategist will tell you, a sound economy is a basic requirement for national security. 

While folks can debate Ronald Reagan's legacy, one of the most problematic has been the notion that any and all taxes are bad (even as the man himself raised taxes on numerous occasions).  Starving the beast that is the federal government has consequences, lasting ones, as programs get cut, as borrowing goes up, as interest payments crowd out other priorities, as China's power increases with the bonds it purchases, and so on. 

We live in a time of historically low taxes--fixing the US budget mess is far easier than fixing the Euro.  Just raise taxes on those who can pay for it (like, well, myself).  Of course, that cuts against the ideology of the day, but does not the crisis of the moment make it clear that you get what you pay for?  If we don't pay for government, don't expect it to do the following things:
  • establish justice, 
  • insure domestic tranquility,
  • provide for the common defense, 
  • promote the general welfare, and 
  • secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
Money does not guarantee the efficient delivery of these public goods, but, without money, we cannot pay the cops, staff the courts, or guard the prisons; we cannot pay for new military equipment, for training, for readiness, for operations, for the retirement and health benefits for active servicepeople and veterans; and so on.

The Republicans have always run with the perception that they are the ones that can best defend the US.  Well, Obama has, for all of his flaws, done a pretty good job denying the GOP such a stance.  Bin Laden is dead, the US is leaving Iraq (and no one except some folks in the Republican party find this to be a problem), the US is about to leave Afghanistan (again, few voters find this to be problematic), and Qaddafi, well, he is dead, too.  Obama is now finessing Pacific issues pretty well, too.

Unfortunately, this next election will turn entirely on the economy.  The good news is that people might still worry about a Herman Cain or Rick Perry or even Mitt Romney being the person with their hands on the national security wheel.  Still, the GOP can do heaps of damage via other routes.  The budget mess is not going to end anytime soon.

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