Dance to the Republican Music

With much focus on the debt ceiling debate and the Republican call for cuts to the federal budget and austerity for the American public, the group that has taken the hardest stand against raising the debt ceiling, House Republicans, passed a Defense Appropriations bill last week that RAISED defense spending by $17 billion over the prior year. That bill was worth $649 billion, but somehow, despite Republican claims that ALL spending is on the table, Defense was exempted from the budget ax. Increases in Defense spending have Republican approval, especially when we are borrowing the funds to pay the bills.

The House, in passing the bill, restored $120 million in funding for the Pentagon’s Military Bands program. The band program, in my view, is a good one. But the amendment offered was to cut the appropriation down to $200 million from $320 million. And that amendment was rejected by Republicans. And these are the guys saying they want a balanced budget amendment?????

I bumped into a new study that details the economic cost of the war commitments made by the United States in the last ten years, and the numbers are eye popping. The Brown study estimates that the ten year number is between $3.2 trillion and $4 trillion. That is just about the amount that all agree we need to cut out of the federal budget deficit in the next ten years. The Brown study estimates that federal interest payments on the borrowed money that has financed the wars is over $180 billion.

The United States paid for past wars by raising taxes and or selling war bonds. The current wars were paid for almost entirely by borrowing. This borrowing has raised the U.S. budget deficit, increased the national debt, and had othermacroeconomic effects, such as raising interest rates. The U.S. must also pay interest on the borrowed money. The interest paid on Pentagon spending alone, so far (from 2001 through FY 2011) is about $185.4 billion in constant dollars.

The Republican “deficit warriors” are not that concerned about spending, as evidenced by this Defense Appropriations process. But they certainly are playing the music of deficit reduction, while really engaged in a three card monte on the American taxpaying public.

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