Super Committee vs. the Department of Defense

Arnold Ahlert is a former NY Post op-ed columnist currently contributing to JewishWorldReview.com, HumanEvents.com and CanadaFreePress.com. He may be reached at atahlert@comcast.net.


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Crunch time is rapidly approaching for the congressional super-committee, with less than a week to go before the November 23rd deadline. Failure to reach a deal by then will trigger automatic spending cuts of $1.2 trillion over the course of a decade beginning in 2013. Those cuts will be evenly divided between military and non-military spending, and therein lies the rub: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned Congress that such automatic cuts could cripple the American military. That potential was best expressed in an exchange between Panetta and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on September 22nd. Graham asked, “If we pull that [automatic] trigger, would we be shooting ourselves in the foot?” Panetta answered, “We’d be shooting ourselves in the head.”

Whether such a dire assessment forces the panel to reach a deal remains to be seen. Both parties are constrained by ideological boundaries, the abandonment of which is viewed as extremely problematic, if not politically suicidal by their respective constituencies. For Democrats, any attempts to trim social spending, despite the reality that cuts to programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, and veterans’ benefits remain off limits, would raise the ire of Americans long used to entitlements which many now view as necessities. For Republicans, raising taxes would be seen by their constituents as an economically illiterate move in a down economy, as well as an abandonment of principle. It may also be seen as breaking an implicit promise signified by the majority of the electorate handing fiscal conservatives a significant increase in power in the 2010 election.

Such is the stuff of which impasses are made.

Given all that is at stake in the negotiations, there does appear to be some movement. On Tuesday, Republicans presented their fellow party members a deal which would raise over $250 billion in new tax revenue over a ten year period. The number would be reached mostly by limiting certain itemized deductions for upper-income households, with “upper income” as yet undefined. In return, they want Democrats to begin revamping the tax code, part of which would entail freezing income tax brackets a their current level. Such a freeze would maintain the Bush tax cuts set to expire in 2012.

Some House Republicans are reportedly on board as a result of a closed-door meeting led by Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), who explained that refusing to accept such a deal would be a Pyrrhic victory, in that the scheduled elimination of the Bush tax cuts would amount to a $4 trillion tax hike.

The biggest stumbling block for the GOP? “I really think in this environment it would be very, very hard to find much support on the Republican side, particularly with the freshmen, to raise any taxes,” said freshman Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN). “It’s going to be very hard for members to run away from the pledge.” The pledge to which Mr. Fleischmann is referring is the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” initially endorsed by Ronald Reagan in 1986, which binds signers to oppose “any and all tax increases.”

The pledge is the brainchild of anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). ATR currently has signatures from 238 House representatives, 41 senators, 13 governors, and all of the GOP presidential candidates except former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. A few Democrats have also signed on. Yet as the deadline for a deal approaches, some Republicans are starting to view the pledge as an unnecessarily rigid constraint best expressed by Sen. John Thune (R-SD). “We shouldn’t be bound by something that could be interpreted different ways if what we’re trying to accomplish is broad-based tax reform,” he told MSNBC last month.

And since there are very few coincidences in politics, it should be noted that Thune made his remarks a day after Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) publicly berated Norquist on the House floor. “Have we really reached a point where one person’s demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?” Wolf asked.

Yet even if the Republicans come to terms with a $250 billion tax increase by whatever manner they wish to achieve it, Democrats are likely to balk. Last week, after rejecting a Republican proposal, they countered with $1 trillion in savings matched by $1 trillion in tax increases. The cuts would have included $400 billion from Medicare and Medicaid, another $400 billion equally divided between defense and non-defense spending, and an additional $200 billion from unspecified provisions under discussion by the Super Committee. Tax reform was not part of the equation.

As of yesterday, Democrats were considering whether or not to lower that demand to $800 billion. Left unclear is how Democrats would get there. Their original proposal included several provisions: a “down payment” of $350 billion coming from a “miscellaneous revenue provision” and a $650-billion proposal to kick the tax reform can down the road until January; yet another trigger which would raise $650 billion if Congress fails to reach an agreement on tax reform, including an automatic “deficit reduction charge,” applied to a taxpayer’s income prior to any deductions; and the withholding of the $400 billion in entitlement cuts until either tax reform or the penalties for not passing it have taken effect.

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  • Adrian

    National 'defense' isn't threatened, whats 'threatened' is neo-conservatives ability to wage pointless wars in the Middle East for Israel.

    • Ghostwriter

      Another anti-semite crawls from his hole to spew his prejudice all over the place.

      • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

        Another hasbara robot crawls from his 1995 era hole to sling the words "spew" and "anti-semite" like a mindless drone for the ADL. You forgot to say "vile, vicious, venom, virulent and vitriolic."

    • kafirman

      Please distinguish how a neo-con pointless war is worse than a 9/10 foreign policy.

  • StephenD

    What is threatened is the international aid to nefarious entities at our expense. Why should it even be considered to raise taxes on me when currently, all you take from me (for running the Government) isn't used as it supposed to be and much is given away to Nation-States many of us would NEVER support? STOP giving our money away to anyone that does not adhere to the same values as we do. Period. THEN you can begin to ask for what more may be needed but not until then.

    • Herman Caintonette

      Stop giving it to anyone and especially, Israel. If not for that parasitic relationship, 9/11 would never have happened.

      Personally, I don't mind paying more in taxes to take care of our societal obligations to the less-fortunate, but $2,000 a person for every man, woman, and child in Israel is a colossal affront.

      • ObamaYoMoma

        If you weren't a mentally deranged anti-Semitic bigot, maybe you would know that if we didn't have Israel to lean on in the Middle East, we would have to fund, build, and staff several new military bases and very significantly expand our intelligence gathering capabilities, all of which would cost on a magnitude exponentially far more than the measly foreign aid we provide Israel on an annual.

  • Herman Caintonette

    Ahnold Not-Terribly-Ahlert: ". Considering Democrats retain majority control of the government–control which has resulted in the Democratically-controlled Senate tabling 15 separate jobs bills passed by the Republican-controlled House."

    And they call Muslims sociopaths! These aren't jobs bills; they are bills gutting a half-century of largely sensible regulation intended to keep our air clean, our water pure, and our factories safe. Pollution is a subsidy to the producer, which is why the Koch Klux Klan is fighting these sensible regulations.

    AA: "A recent Pew Survey is all over the place, but one of the main themes that emerges is that 60 percent believe that the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed greatly to the debt, compared to only 24 percent who believe increased spending for domestic programs is to blame. Thus it would appear that cutting military spending, in spite of dire warnings, is a political winner, with Democrats likely being perceived as the victorious side."

    The public has it right. Tax breaks for the wealthy and ruinous wars of empire have been –by far–the largest contributors to our national debt; if the Clinton-era tax code had been left alone and had we stayed out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we wouldn't have a national debt. Social Security would have remained sound, especially if we didn't encourage the offshoring of our manufacturing base to benefit the oligarchs.

    AA: "This raises the ultimate question: are Americans willing to accept a heightened level of risk that another day like 9/11–or worse–could occur, in order to reserve more funds for entitlement programs?"

    In a word, yes. If we had a coherent policy toward the Middle East, and adopted strict fuel economy standards, there would be enough money to ensure that Nana isn't forced to choke on dog food whilst freezing in the dark. Of course, that would mean cutting off that paracite[sic] known as Israel, but unlike the traitorous crew here, most of us could care less.

    • Ghostwriter

      Is it any wonder you're called an anti-semite? Your constant bashing of Israel does you no favors.

    • ObamaYoMoma

      Loon, you told me you were a mentally handicapped anarcho kook like Ron Paul. You lied; you are a commie pinko instead.

    • Eric

      So how do $120-150B per year in war costs create a $1500B annual deficit? Where did you take math? Bush ramped up the wars – surely we were spending a lot more back then, yet his deficits were 20% the size of Obama's – how do you explain that?
      If you TOTALLY eliminated the base defense budget (which is impossible/reckless of course) and both wars, even that would only cut the deficit in half.

      And it's the Obama-Reid-Pelosi tax cut, no longer is it Bush's – they extended it last year, before Republicans got control of the House. Did you even know that? You should not rely so heavily on MSNBC; etc.

  • Rifleman

    The dp suckered the GOP again. They increased deficit spending by over $10 trillion for this decade, and won’t even agree to cut $2 trillion from it. If no agreement is reached, half of any cuts will come from defense, which accounts for less than 25% of federal spending.

    Meanwhile, the chicoms are building over 2000 5th generation air superiority fighters for their air force, and another 2000 for export to our other adversaries. We won’t even build 300 F-22 air superiority fighters, and they’re already whittling down the 1200 F-35 strike fighters they said they were going to build instead of the F-22.

  • Ahmed

    America will be Islamic in the future. So many Americans come to my mosque here in Dallas to convert now, especially latina and white women. Its beautiful to see Americans rejecting the hate of Islamophobes who are deliberately misleading on the Islamic faith. Many older white males and african-americans are also converting. Abandoning the Zionists would be a smart move.

    • StephenD

      Do you share ALL of Islam with them Ahmed? Do you tell them how Mo flew into Jerusalem on a flying donkey? Do you explain how he is your idea of the perfect example of what a man should be? The same man that married a 6 year old girl? Do you tell them that their freedom to choose henceforth is abrogated; That should they want to leave Islam it is a death sentence? Do you tell them what Mo said about Blacks being less than human? Did you tell them Ahmed, how women have 1/4 the value of a man and are essentially owned by men? Did you explain how homosexuals are to be put to death? How about Female Genital Mutilation so they can no longer become stimulated? What of the cloth coffin they are to wear because in Islam because men cannot control themselves and any exposure of the female form is cause for a man to rape them and is HER FAULT? Did you share all of this or were you, in your words, "deliberately misleading?"

    • Ghostwriter

      Did you also hear that the Taliban banned music and I mean all forms of music and other entertainment? No,I'm not surprised,but that's what someone like you seems to want.

  • Julie

    Ahmed, Do you tell them about Mohammed and "Thighing"? About Islam condoning the child sexual abuse so loved by Khomeini, Jimmy Carters BFF? Have a barf bag handy. How about the gruesome, graphic pictures of the ways women are punished. I think the cult of Islam is afraid of women. The converts you speak of don't exist. And for the cronically stupid, if the military is gutted you better support the second amendment. What ligitiment religion has to use the threat of death to keep the cult going. Red flag for thinking people.

    • Ahmed

      "The converts you speak of don't exist."

      Yes they do.
      http://abna.ir/data.asp?lang=3&id=276759

      On a warm Thursday morning outside the John M. Pfau Library at Cal State San Bernardino, 24-year-old psychology student Gina Cuellar waited for her study partner.

      Other young women passed by her, many wearing blue jeans and boots. Cuellar wasn't hard to spot.

      A recent convert to Islam, she sported a hot pink head scarf known as a hijab, with her sunglasses propped on top.

      "I think God watches over me whenever I wear it," she said. "You get blessings."

      Her blessing for the day was an up-front parking spot in the university's otherwise crowded parking lot.

      Cuellar's birth mother was a Mexican American who died when Cuellar was 11 years old. Her father is Caucasian.

      The Mentone resident is among what many Muslim leaders say is a growing number of American women converting to Islam.

      "The qualitative anecdotes are women particularly are converting at a much faster rate, particularly Latinas," said Ahmed Rehab, media relations director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington

      Because the U.S. Census Bureau does not ask citizens about their religion, those trying to track the number of American conversions to Islam say the task is difficult.

      Dany Doueiri, director of the Arabic language program at Cal State San Bernardino and co-founder of IslamiCity.org, said about 60percent of the website's traffic comes from the U.S. and Canada, and in the last three years, more than 1,000 visitors have contacted the website to learn how to convert.

      Because so many have shown an interest in converting to Islam, he said he has been able to build a general profile of those who have recently become Muslims through his website.

      Doueiri said he wasn't surprised by Cuellar's embracing of the religion.

      "In the U.S., people who become Muslim generally are women of Latino or white heritage, who are between 17 and 33 years old," Doueiri said. "Then you may have men who are African-American who are somehow, somewhere incarcerated and also embrace Islam. Then, white men over 40 years old who are white collars."

      America is embracing Islam and rejecting the Islamophobes.

      • StephenD

        You are a liar…and a fool, to think we would believe anything that comes from or is associated with CAIR.
        What is so comical is how a parking spot (the individual benefits) up front is a "blessing" where as in Judaism and Christianity it is the opportunity to do for others that is a blessing. You can't help but show what a gutter cult, sub-culture you guys represent. What fools!
        And you still have not responded to any of the issues I stated earlier.

      • ebonystone

        Meanwhile, in Europe, Moslems are leaving Islam at the rate of 2000/day — 730,000/year.
        And in China, the Chinese are converting to Christianity at the rate of 10,000/day; with virtually zero Chinese converting to Islam.

  • Ghostwriter

    Sorry,Ahmed. You're going to have to force a good portion of this country into Islam,many of whom are immigrants. And we don't take kindly to those who try to force their religion upon us.

  • ebonystone

    In the 1950's we had prosperity and basically balanced budgets, with the military getting about half of the federal budget. There were no food stamps, medicaid, medicare, dept of education, EPA, NPR, nor OSHA. Yet America was a much better place to live then than it is now.

  • joy52

    If the Dems force(and that is how it will be seen, because Repubs don't want it) a cut to military after Panetta warned against it, it will just make the half that want Obama out and see him as a threat grow larger. If the Dems direct more to entitlements, it will solidify the already solid block that know Obama and the Dems are spending us into oblivion. Dems try to spin it that the public wants spending and more taxes. But we know how the public called and emailed in 2008 telling Congress not to do what they did. Dems are better spindoctors, but they can't spin away a 15 trillion dollar deficit that they caused.

  • WSG

    Understand hat gutting the US as a military power has been and is the goal of the Progressives.
    Crash the system, induce chaos and build dependency on the government that IS THE INTENT !
    AHmed I have a low cost solution for you and your fellow jihadists – just show up at my door and i will explain FREEDOM as I understand it. Words have meaning and I have read the Koran enough to know what you are about ….. . This ain’t North Africa or Europe .

  • myohmy

    Panetta is a nwo commie. Obama wants to downgrade our military to the level of 1940. That was before WWII started and the population of America was 132,000,000 at that time. Today we are 330,000,000 Obama took an oath to defend America and he's already broken that oath of office many times. We must vote him and his kind out of office next year or we'll lose our nation and our freedom. That's the bottom line.

  • 13Sisters76

    The leftist demonRATs have made every effort, since AT LEAST the 60s, to weaken us. When THEY speak of cuts, it is ALWAYS to our military, and never to their precious entitlements or pork.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    Nobody and certainly not the media has the courage to say it, but we are on the verge of implementing serious draconian cuts that would hollow out our military and make the world a far more dangerous place so that we can continue accommodating mass Muslim immigration with all of its excess baggage.

    Hence, the solution to our current budgetary woes is really very simple: Outlaw Islam and ban and reverse mass Muslim immigration with all of its excess baggage ASAP, as zero Muslims living in America would equal zero jihad attacks. Then once the threat of jihad attacks has been eliminated, lets eliminate the humongous Department of Homeland Security, the immense and very intrusive TSA, and the gargantuan National Intelligence Directorate, which are the three biggest federal boondoggles ever created in the history of mankind.

    Anyway, they are all also totally useless, as other than creating a false sense of security the fact of the matter is we are even more vulnerable to being attacked by jihadists today than we were before 9/11 simply due to the fact that mass Muslim immigration with all of its excess baggage since 9/11 has actually increased.

    Indeed, you can't import Muslims into your country without at the same time also importing jihad and sharia, as jihad and sharia are intrinsic to Islam and you can't get Islam without also getting jihad and sharia. As a matter of fact, jihad is the sixth and most important pillar of Islam and sharia is the will of Allah.

    In fact, had GWB in response to the 9/11 jihad attacks outlawed Islam and banned and reversed mass Muslim immigration with all of its excess baggage instead of doubling the size, scope, and power of the federal government like a Dhimmicrat on steroids via the creation of the humongous Department of Homeland Security, the immense and extremely intrusive TSA, and the National Intelligence Directorate, not only would all Americans that were killed as a result of jihad attacks since 9/11 still be alive and well today, but our previous excellent credit rating would still be intact and our severe budgetary problems never would have materialized.

    Thus, we are on the verge of implementing draconian cuts to our budget that could possibility destroy our ability to defend ourselves and maintain freedom in the world exactly so that we can continue accommodating mass Muslim immigration with all of its excess baggage, and it is also being done without the consent of the American people. Indeed, whether we like it or not, our elitist politicians are selling us out, and we are being morphed into submissive dhimmis just like the Euroloons.

  • ngw

    obama signs his 86th excutive order @13575 political vel craft website