I try not to judge our esteemed members of Congress too much when their bias leeks through. Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina is on a mission to save the defense budget. This isn’t surprising considering his background and state. Not only was Graham a career JAG and still a reservist but he also represents a state that gets a large amount of DoD money. So much that some have called it red state welfare (notable, if extreme). Most of that comes courtesy of military bases. Graham also replaced a former military Senator as well.
To say he must play the DoD card is an understatement. The DoD budget is being cut and Graham, along with other Senators, isn’t happy about it. He’s making speeches about how defense is the cornerstone of what the federal government should be focused on. One would suspect he’s implying that cutting the defense budget is just something that shouldn’t be done. But there’s a hole in that simplistic view.
First of all, no one is saying defense is unimportant. But cuts to the largest portion of the budget that isn’t a social program is the only way to make a dent in our government spending problem. Graham also doesn’t seem to be acknowledging the massive run-up in defense spending from the last 12 years; a consequence to our wars overseas that have no doubt benefited the good Senator’s state. These conflicts are winding down, to not wind down spending on defense is irresponsible. Defense has been and always will be a significant aspect of what the federal government does and a few cuts here and there aren’t going to make a difference. This is an issue that has support from both sides of the aisle, and the DoD.
Now, if Graham wants to draw attention away from spending on defense, he should be sharing charts like this.
The red line shows how much money the government hands out from programs like Social Security and Medicare. The blue line shows defense. You can see the post 9/11 bloat to defense spending. But, compared to government transfer payments is it even worth the conversation? Are any cuts worth any conversation until we figure out what to do with the likes of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid? I kind of wonder.
The problem in Washington is that no one wants to talk about transfer payments. It doesn’t get you reelected. Republicans in parts of the country not served as much by defense get reelected by cutting defense or any other budget that isn’t sending money to their state. Democrats can play ball with some cuts but also want to raise taxes to help with the deficit Republicans claim to care about.
But no one talks about transfer payments. Lindsay Graham is going to play the hand that’s dealt to him, but he could instead refocus the attention on the biggest problem instead of complaining about the next closest thing to low-hanging fruit.