As leaders gathered for the G8 meeting and Europe's economic woes threaten to pull ours back into recession, one thing is clear: economics matters for national strength.
No nation has ever stayed a great power with a weak economy. Just ask the British Empire, which once strode the world as a colossus on which the sun never set. After going into immense debt following two world wars, it shrunk down to its little green isle.
That's why it's flabbergasting that Rep. Buck McKeon -- the Republican in charge of the House Armed Services Committee -- is trying to force Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to spend more than he wants to on military defense.
McKeon's House panel added nearly $4 billion in pet projects and pork-barrel spending to the budget the Pentagon had asked for. So we have members of Congress telling Pentagon leaders that they need to spend more than they want -- and ignoring our military's calls to rein in our deficit for our own national strength.
In this fun-house world, it's worth reiterating that the Pentagon's budget is actually rising under both Obama's plan and Congressional plans. The only question is how much it's growing. President Obama is trying to get military spending to expand at a slower pace in order to cut down on America's trillion-dollar deficit. House Republicans want to spend on defense as if money is no object -- while cutting back on other aspects of our national strength.
Buck McKeon isn't alone. Rep. Paul Ryan, Republican Chairman of the House Budget Committee, is pushing Republicans to use their campaigns to pledge support to his radical budget. Ryan's budget slashes core elements of our security -- like our programs that help train other militaries and law enforcement to fight so we don't have to police the entire world. Meanwhile, he spends $8 billion more than the Defense Department asked for on projects it doesn't want.
The military brass, non-political chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, has said that Panetta's budget "will maintain our military's decisive edge and help sustain America's global leadership." He also said that it "has real buy-in" among senior military leaders.
It sounds easy to throw money at the Pentagon and buy more security. But we all know that's not how security works -- it's like investing tens of thousands in a terrific alarm system for your house, then leaving your windows open. National strength requires economic strength. It requires having other nations trained and able to share burdens. And it requires other elements of strength: like having a population educated enough to be admitted to the military, and to take the jobs of the future.
While the G8 meets around the campfire at Camp David, it would be nice if the House Republicans gave a good, hard look to the British delegation. And think about whose shoes they want America to be in 20 years from now.
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