For all of the talk of the “fiscal cliff,” the reality is we still stand on the precipice. As we all know, the New Year’s deal cut taxes and added some $330 billion in new spending, but it did not tackle the virus that is eating away at our fundamental freedoms, strangling our economy and undermining the basic pillars of our society. This nasty little bug is a hugely expanded and controlling federal government.
Just to be clear, I am not asking the president and Congress to wipe out the government in our lives any more than a doctor wants to wipe out all of the bacteria in your body. Your body has lots of different bacteria that perform valuable functions; likewise, our government performs many vital functions in our society. But today in our country, we have been overrun by huge growth in what were once considered benign and even helpful functions. To make matters worse, the only governmental function that has been severely cut back by President Obama and is scheduled to get even more harsh reductions is the most essential of all services – national defense.
First, let’s examine the patient. The federal government is projected to spend $3.8 trillion this year, which comprises nearly 24 percent of overall production of goods and services in America. That is over 20 percent more than the average amount our government has spent per year since 1946. When I left the Senate in 2007, the federal government’s total debt equaled 64 percent of the economy of our country, but today it is more than 100 percent. That figure is worse than any European Union country, except the two countries on the verge of fiscal collapse, Greece and Italy. To reverse this trend, I am urging my all Americans to join me in signing a petition for a balanced-budget amendment. This would require the federal government by law to not spend more than it takes in and cap spending at 18 percent of the overall American economy.
And what are we spending it on? In 1960, the federal government spent more than half of the budget on national defense and roughly 10 percent on payments and health benefits to those entitled under federal programs. By last year, those payments as a percentage of federal spending have increased six times to more than 60 percent of all spending, and defense has been whittled down to 20 percent. That includes more than $100 billion for the ongoing wars. That percentage is going to decrease dramatically over the next few years as President Obama’s $487 billion cut in defense over the next 10 years is implemented.
In the next few weeks, Congress will pass a bill to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government again. In 2011, Republicans attempted to enact spending cuts to deal with the sickness of an exploding federal government, but the deal required no major cuts in spending until now. If no new deal is put in place, spending will be cut by $1 trillion, a good start for sure. However half of the spending cuts will take place in defense. That would cut defense spending (less than 20 percent of the budget) by a $50 billion per year over the next 10 years, on top of an already planned $487 billion reduction, while Social Security and Medicaid are fully exempt, as is all but 2 percent of Medicare spending (60 percent of the budget).
President Obama’s own secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, described the cuts as “significant and harmful to our collective mission as an agency.” These cuts, totaling $1 trillion over the next decade would leave us with the smallest military force since 1940 (when we were unprepared for World War II), the smallest Navy since 1915 (when we were unprepared for World War I) and the smallest Air Force since it became a separate military branch in 1947.
The consequences to our security are mind boggling, but one of the most likely unmet threats from reduced military spending would be a missile attack on our country. Our missile-defense capability has already been compromised by President Obama’s successful ratification of the New START Treaty with Russia and his defunding of the important European Interceptor Site missile defense complex in Poland.
I believe this is critical because the most lethal threat that faces our nation is a nuclear missile that produces an electromagnetic pulse, or an EMP. Such a missile launched at the U.S. by Iran, North Korea or one of their terrorist conduits could kill 60-90 percent of all Americans (see the television show, “Revolution”). An EMP attack could be delivered by the ICBM missile that North Korea successfully tested in December. An EMP attack would knock out the electrical grid, communications, transportation, water and food sources for all Americans leading to the deaths of tens of millions due to starvation and a complete societal collapse.
As far back as 2002, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld described the threat: “Countries have placed ballistic missiles in ships – dime a dozen – all over the world. At any given time, there’s any number off our coasts – coming, going. On transporter-erector-launchers, they simply erect it, fire off a ballistic missile, put it down, cover it up. Their radar signature is not any different than 50 others in close proximity.”
Yet, 10 years later our missile-defense systems continue to be neglected. With nearly $1 trillion in defense cuts looming in the next decade, will we ever seriously confront this threat?
As the fiscal debate continues in the coming months, remember the decisions our leaders are making are not minor ones that affect only certain tax brackets or benefit recipients. They are real life and death issues that affect all American families. We owe it to ourselves and our kids to maintain a strong national defense, and our elected leaders need to get real and act.