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Protecting Wasteful Military Spending at All Costs

House Conservatives Want to Cut Child and Elderly Programs Instead of Nuclear Stockpiles

SOURCE: AP/ Al Golub

Doug Lilly of Meals on Wheels delivers a meal to Ted Jenson, 73, in Modesto, California. House conservatives are prepared to cut programs for low- and middle-income Americans, including Meals on Wheels, in order to protect unnecessary defense spending.

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House Republicans are asking low- and middle-income families to sacrifice health care and basic services to preserve redundant defense systems:

  • They are prepared to slash funding for child and elder abuse prevention, Meals on Wheels, and foster care to keep a helicopter that costs five times as much as similar models yet is not much more effective.
  • They are willing to raise taxes on the families of 5.5 million low-income children to purchase two submarines that are unnecessary to maintain our naval superiority.
  • They are ready to force hundreds of thousands of working families to forgo health coverage in order to block any cuts to a nuclear stockpile whose size is largely a relic of the Cold War.

Here’s the background: The House Republican budget instructs the Ways and Means Committee to find $53 billion in savings in order to “protect national security from deep and indiscriminate cuts” that would otherwise take place in January 2013 due to the debt deal agreed to last summer. On April 17 the committee set forth their package, which exceeded the target. It proposes $68 billion in cuts and tax increases for low- and middle-income Americans.  

The chart below gives a side-by-side comparison of the cuts to low- and middle-income families that House conservatives are proposing in order to shield wasteful military spending from automatic cuts in the debt deal.

These cuts will fall mainly on middle-class families, the working poor, and the most vulnerable children in systems such as foster care. And they are entirely unnecessary.

We can make strategic cuts to our defense budget without undermining our national security, including reducing our nuclear stockpile while sustaining a credible deterrent and making more effective weapons purchases. In fact, the Center for American Progress has found more than $500 billion in Pentagon cuts that could be implemented over the next decade while still maintaining our vast military superiority. 

But if the House were really determined to avoid any defense cuts, there were many other places they could have looked for savings. For instance, the Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over taxes and could have easily found $68 billion in revenues from the wealthiest Americans. Simply asking millionaires to pay the same tax rate as many middle-class families would have raised $160 billion in 10 years—more than twice their target to avoid defense cuts.

Budgets are more than numbers on a ledger. They are statements of priorities. And this bill’s priorities are clear: It asks low- and middle-income families to foot the bill for outdated and surplus defense systems we don’t need.

Melissa Boteach is the Director of Half in Ten, Larry Korb is a Senior Fellow, and Max Hoffman is a Special Assistant at the Center for American Progress.

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