When Representative Paul Ryan (R–WI) released the House Republican budget earlier this week, one thing was certain: It takes seriously the constitutional responsibility to provide for the common defense. Eschewing the Obama Administration’s call for higher taxes, the Ryan budget succeeds in restoring America’s defenses while restraining the federal government’s insatiable desire to increase taxes.
Not surprisingly, this reality is lost on many of the more vocal critics from the left. Unwilling to acknowledge the Ryan budget’s ability to reestablish appropriate and necessary funding for the nation’s defenses while avoiding the pitfalls of higher taxes and runaway entitlement spending, some have resorted to actually labeling the Ryan plan as jeopardizing America’s national security.
Michael Breen, vice president of the Truman National Security Project, declared that “Ryan’s plan cuts virtually every security tool in the president’s arsenal that isn’t a gun.” Breen goes on to argue that “Paul Ryan’s budget slashes the very national security tools that made America the world’s superpower in the first place.”
Breen predicates his argument on the fact that Ryan’s budget incrementally cuts funding for projects ancillary to national defense, such as diplomacy and foreign aid. By conflating the much smaller elements of diplomacy and foreign aid, which are often associated with the projection of soft power, with the much larger elements of a robust defense mechanism capable of preserving America’s kinetic ability, he promotes a narrative that deviates from the most salient features of Ryan’s budget proposal.
While recognizing the need for spending reductions, the Ryan plan does not allow this to be achieved at the expense of America’s national security.
As Arthur Brooks, William Kristol, and Heritage’s Ed Feulner noted in The Wall Street Journal, “Even within the framework of a plan to reduce outlays by $6.2 trillion over the next decade, Mr. Ryan has found a way to replace $214 billion of the $487 billion in military spending reductions that are in Barack Obama’s budget.”
Ryan’s plan also succeeds in avoiding the serious dangers associated with the process of sequestration—automatic spending cuts that, if left unresolved, would crater the defense budget and leave the nation’s security in a precarious state.
From 1945 through 2010, defense spending as a percentage of the total federal budget averaged just under 35 percent. Today, that number floats just below 20 percent. As entitlement spending has continued on auto-pilot for the past several decades, eating away at an ever-increasing percentage of the total federal budget, spending on defense has precipitously declined.
Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution stipulates that Congress shall provide for the “common defense” of the nation. In attempting to forestall the catastrophic cuts to America’s defense budget that would result from the sequestration process, the Ryan plan maintains fidelity to the original intent of the Founders’ vision of the government’s responsibility to its people. Far from jeopardizing America’s national security, the Ryan plan succeeds in prioritizing the broader defense needs of the nation within the context of necessary spending reductions.