Imagine if a bunch of the craziest war-hungry Republicans in the House filmed themselves in a nutty bat-guano video packed with lies addressed to the President of the United States. And then imagine President Barack Obama almost immediately agreeing with them. I can think of two ways in which such a series of events could go unnoticed, as it just has.
First, it could be about something insignificant. But this was about undoing the automatic cuts to the military mandated by the failure of the Supercommittee (remember, the top news story of a few months back?). The military, across various departments, swallows over half of federal discretionary spending, and there's no greater obsession in the corporate media than the great Spending vs. Cuts issue. This is NOT insignificant.
Second, it could be about something that the elites of both major parties agree on, the media therefore ignores, most Republican voters love, and Democratic voters pretend not to notice because the President is a Democrat and an election is less than a year away.
If you're guessing the second option, you are right. (Tell them what they've won, Leon!) You are now the proud owners of the most expensive military ever seen, plus coming increases that will be presented as "cuts."
When the Supercommittee failed, automatic federal budget cuts were to kick in — half to things we need and half to the bloated military. The military cuts would take us back to 2004 spending. We seem to have survived 2004 and the years preceding it OK.
The Pentagon claims to be making other cuts already, but they are "cuts" to dream budgets resulting in actual budget increases — and that's not even counting increased war spending through other departments.
House Republicans have sent President Obama this crazy video opposing military cuts and introduced legislation to slash 10% of non-military government jobs instead. In the Senate, John McCain is said to be working on a similar bill.
Meanwhile "Defense" Secretary Leon Panetta has just announced the Obama Administration's position: They will oppose the automatic cuts, or any other actual cuts, to the military. This will mean severe cuts to education, transportation, and — as President Obama indicated in his State of the Union speech — to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
At last Thursday's press conference the first question following Panetta's remarks was:
"Mr. Secretary, you talked a little bit on this, but over the next 10 years, do you see any other year than this year where the actual spending will go down from year to year? And just to the American public more broadly, how do you sort of explain what appears to be contradictory, as you talk about, repeatedly, this $500 billion in cuts in a Defense Department budget that is actually going to be increasing over time?"
Panetta had no substantive answer. And he didn't need one. The media almost unanimously put out the false story that the military was undergoing serious cuts. That first year's cut, by the way, is 1%, to be followed by nine years of larger increases.
You might have forgotten that in 2008, three times in three presidential debates, Senator John McCain proposed cutting the military, while Senator Obama campaigned on increasing it — one promise he has actually kept.
Lately supporters have been saying that the President will become the Obama of our Dreams once he's a lame duck. But the history and the logic of lame duck officials is that they become less, not more, representative of the public will. And the public will is strongly in favor of major cuts to the military.
Others may be inclined to suggest that while Obama and Panetta are increasing the military and calling it "cuts," they are actually cutting the budget for wars. Some may have been misled by this line in the State of the Union: "Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home."
But in reality, Obama and Panetta are proposing to cut the war budget by only $27 billion. Meanwhile, the $27 billion has already been spent elsewhere in the Pentagon budget. Plus military spending is on the rise in other departments. Plus any new wars and confrontations — like in Iran or Syria — will offer the opportunity for supplemental bills. And less expensive but more secretive and equally deadly wars are underway, investment will increase in drones and special forces, and I have doubts we could rebuild our nation here at home for $13.5 billion even if we had it, while continuing to dump over $1 trillion into preparations for the crime of war year after year.
We do have the option to resist.