UPDATED: Deleted Comment We Wrongly Attributed to Norquist That Came From Cato Website.
WASHINGTON: That anguished sound you hear is the gnashing of teeth and grumbling among defense Republicans in reaction to comments today about the defense budget by Grover Norquist, he of the unbreakable pledge signed by most Republicans to never raise taxes.
“Conservatives need to remember that, just as spending money on something called education doesn’t mean people are educated and spending money on welfare doesn’t mean it adds to the general welfare calling something national defense doesn’t mean it is. It may not be. It may undermine national defense if it’s a waste of resources, if it’s a misallocation of resources,” Norquist says in an interview aired and released today by the libertarian Cato Institute.
And he tackled head-on the drumbeat we have heard for months now from industry leaders and many defense Republicans: $500 billion in automatic defense budget cuts caused by the Budget Control Act will destroy one million jobs across the country.
“Some people argue that defense spending creates jobs. It doesn’t it. It moves it around,” Norquist says in the interview, clearly aiming to deflate the central argument against sequestration passionately pushed by the Aerospace Industries Association, dozens of its member companies and passionate defense Republicans such as Rep. Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Defense spending, he said, “doesn’t make jobs. It takes money out of the real economy and puts it in the government sector.” And, as any good Capitol Hill Republican will tell you, the government is wasteful and money spent by the government would almost always better be used elsewhere.
However, McKeon and a host of other Republican lawmakers in both the House and Senate have hedged on this, arguing that defense spending is the one government spending function required by the Constitution and that while we are still at war and facing such a complex world — terrorism, China, Iran, North Korea etc. — a steep reduction in defense spending is just not acceptable.
A GOP source was clearly miffed by Norquist’s arguments. (We tried reaching other GOP sources but they are all apparently on vacation in Texas, Florida and Maine. We understand they are barred from visiting Martha’s Vineyard and other effete East Coast liberal strongholds.) The source noted that Norquist’s arguments are not, in and of themselves, new although Norquist has not made them.
“Does he have some ideas on how to improve the requirements process? We hope he’ll share them with us,” the source offered with just a tad of bile. “Has he sat down with Marion Blakey [president of the Aerospace Industries Association, the powerful defense lobby] to discuss how to fix sequestration?”
So Norquist’s ideologically pure GOP argument that defense spending is bad and inefficient may play to some in the party, but I think defense Republicans are unlikely to embrace his arguments any time soon. Our GOP source encouraged the president of Americans for Tax Reform, “to work with others on how to get a more efficient and effective Department of Defense.” Over to you, Mr. Norquist.
By the way, our source thought it might help you if some of your arguments were more current. Donald Rumsfeld killed the Crusader artillery system in 2002. And those references to Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich aren’t exactly up to date.