The Pentagon Budget

Barney Frank on the Mandate to Cut Defense

12.12.12 5:32 PM ET

There's a new essay from the soon-to-be-released issue of the best-edited journal in Washington, nay the world, known as Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, by one Barney Frank about the new mandate to cut defense spending. It's interesting because it's a slightly unexpected topic choice from Barney, who argues:

For the first time in my memory, a Democratic candidate for President argued for less military spending against a Republican candidate who called for great increases—and the Democrat won. George McGovern was the last Democratic candidate to talk about spending less on the military. Subsequently, every Democratic presidential candidate was told that he had better look sufficiently tough on national security because a perception that Democrats were too weak vis-à-vis the Soviet Union was a major point of vulnerability...

...being the strongest nation in the world can be achieved much less expensively than at current levels. Obama deserves a great deal of credit for ending the war in Iraq, for committing to ending the war in Afghanistan, and for successfully withstanding Republican pressure to spend more on the military. But I believe he underestimates the extent to which the public is willing to support even further reductions, and I believe that he may appear to be overly influenced by being told that as President, he has the duty to continue to lead the indispensable nation.

It's a strong piece that digs pretty deep into the details of the defense budget and examines the arguments against cutting it, countering those arguments effectively. Frank also argues, and this is interesting, that more and more Republicans, to some extent in Congress but really rank-and-file Republicans out around the country, are warming to the idea:

One of the most important signs that the public was ready to support a rational—i.e., significantly reduced—military budget came during Clint Eastwood’s ramble at the Republican National Convention. One of the few coherent things he said in that memorable debate that he lost to a chair was that the President should have announced his willingness to pull out of Afghanistan altogether. This criticism of the President from an antiwar position elicited cheers from the Republican delegates.

The military budget has basically doubled in the last decade, to $530 billion. Doubled. It's just not needed, and it's not "weak" to say so.

(I am the editor of Democracy, as many of you know, so that bit up top was a little inside joke, although not really because we do edit fairly rigorously.)