By James Kwak
“The debate on the debt is an opportunity to send the world a signal that we are going to remain the strongest military force in the world. We’re saying, ‘We’re going to keep it, and we’re going to make it the No. 1 priority of a broke nation.’ ”
That’s Lindsey Graham, as reported in the Times today (emphasis added).
Graham is trying to make the case that we should undo the automatic reductions in defense spending mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (last summer’s the debt ceiling compromise). But as a conservative Republican, he is also wedded to the notion that the United States is “broke.” (Which, of course, is nonsense. If you’re not sure why, see chapter 5 of White House Burning.) Graham has also signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, meaning that the federal government can only solve its fiscal problems by cutting spending, not increasing tax revenues.
To make this balancing act work, Graham makes the claim that a country that is “broke” (again, his word) should continue to make military spending its top priority—including military intervention in both Syria and Iran. Does he really think that, under that assumption, we should continue slashing domestic spending so we can continue paying for expensive overseas adventures? Yet this is the unavoidable, nonsensical conclusion of today’s Republican orthodoxy.