Why the Chuck Hagel nomination matters as the federal government has now become a health care state

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Susan Rice’s tormentors will now turn their eyes to Chuck Hagel. — Getty Images

“Just like Oswald Spengler once said, despite not getting much right, he was absolutely correct when he informed European leaders that they could either be global military powers or pay for their welfare states, but they couldn’t do both.”

When Americans think of government they think of red-tape policies, meaning be ready to wait for a while in order to see changes take place. This adds to the profound number on the majority of polls, which state that more than two-thirds of Americans dislike government.

Despite all of this evidence, most Americans do want their government to subsidize their health care. Many believe that health care spending improves their lives more than any other public good. Overwhelming evidence shows that Americans opposed any cuts to Medicare by a margin of 70 percent to 25 percent.

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Just like David Brook states: “In a democracy, voters get what they want, so the line tracing federal health care spending looks like the slope of a jet taking off from La Guardia Airport.”

As Medicare spending will almost double over the next decade, it will be driving force in ALL federal spending over the next generation. Medicare spending will push the federal debt to about 250 percent of G.D.P. in 30 years.

With no plausible tax increase that can keep pace with this spending upsurge; the Democrats had their finest chance in over a generation to raise revenue. Despite this, all that they got was a paltry $ 600 billion over 10 years. Unfortunately, this does not even scratch the surface on making any wiggle improvement in the overall fiscal picture.

With health care spending, being the type that US voters really appreciate, the collateral effect is the squeezing out of all the other spending, which is less of a priority to them. What programs are going to feel this squeezing effect?

It will start with cutting-back on domestic programs. The first one in line is the piñata used during every election and that is education. After this department can’t be drained anymore, next in line will be science, infrastructure and poverty relief.

This is not to say that these departments have not gotten hammered with cuts already, despite their treacherous future in the years ahead.

Sadly, advocates for children, education and the poor don’t even try to defend their programs by lobbying for cutbacks in Medicare. They know that given the choice, voters and politicians care more about middle-class seniors than about poor children.

Despite cut after cut from the federal government revenue, defense budgets have not felt the pinch from the Medicare anaconda like squeeze. This will no longer be the case.

Just like Oswald Spengler once said, despite not getting much right, he was absolutely correct when he informed European leaders that they could either be global military powers or pay for their welfare states, but they couldn’t do both.

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The Europeans have chosen welfare over global power. Today, these same European nations can longer perform many elemental tasks of troop logistics and fighting. Going back to the end of the 1990’s the Europeans were spending as much as 2.5 percent of the G.D.P. on national defense.

Today, this spending is down to 1.5 percent; and we can’t stop there, with everything going on now in Europe with the Euro-crisis and bailouts taking place. This ship is bound to sink lower.

The effect across the Atlantic Ocean in the United states will be similar to this. With US defense spending at 4.3 percent of G.D.P., the effect will be a reduction to 3 percent according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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Feeding the US Defense Budget. — Star Tribune

History says the defense budget planners are as notorious as they come, at how badly they have estimated postwar military cuts. For example, after the Vietnam war, the cold war and the 1991 gulf war, they vastly underestimated the size of the cuts that eventually materialized. However, those cuts were not felt by the Medicare grip that is coming.

As our federal government transitions into a health care state, there has to be a generation of cuts to the defense budget that will overwhelm anything in recent history.

Keep in mind how brutal the budget pressure is going to be. According to the Government Accountability Office, if we act on entitlements today, we will still have to cut federal spending by 32 percent and raise taxes by 46 percent over the next 75 years to meet current obligations. If we postpone action for another decade, then we have to cut all non-interest federal spending by 37 percent and raise all taxes by 54 percent.

As this sort of crunch gradually tightens, Medicare will be the last to go. Spending on things like Head Start, scientific research and defense will go quicker. These spending cuts will transform America’s stature in the world, making us look a lot more like Europe today. This is why Adm. Mike Mullen called the national debt the country’s biggest security threat.

Chuck Hagel has been nominated to supervise the beginning of this generation-long process of defense cutbacks. If a Democratic president is going to slash defense, he probably wants a Republican at the Pentagon to give him political cover, and he probably wants a decorated war hero to boot.

All the charges about Hagel’s views on Israel or Iran are secondary. The real question is, how will he begin this long cutting process? How will he balance modernizing the military and paying current personnel? How will he recalibrate American defense strategy with, say, 455,000 fewer service members?

How, in short, will Hagel supervise the beginning of America’s military decline? If members of Congress don’t want America to decline militarily, well, they have no one to blame but the voters and themselves.

For the original story by David Brooks: Why Hagel Was Picked

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Comments

  1. I suspect we are going to be in for a rude awakening, after Hagel gets the nomination. Some of the defense budget cuts are going to scare the heck out of a lot of people.

  2. Jeff Graham says:

    once the likes of Rand Paul and the anti-israeli lobby get their megaphone during the nomination process, it will split the republican party right down the middle. not looking forward to the that because it is going to become a circus.

Any thoughts?