Jacob Sullum

Our so-called defense budget, which has nearly doubled since 2001, was $700 billion in 2011 (including spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). It accounts for more than two-fifths of the world's military spending, about 10 times our share of the world's population.

In this context, Obama's defense "cuts" are irresponsible only in the sense that they do not go nearly far enough. Any politician who insists that the U.S. continue to police the globe -- maintaining alliances that have lost their reason for existing, defending wealthy countries that are perfectly capable of defending themselves and engaging in one optional war after another -- has no credibility when he promises to "eliminate every government program that is not absolutely essential."

But let's assume Romney can reach his target while recklessly expanding the Pentagon's already bloated budget. Where will that get us? "I will put us on a path to a balanced budget," he said in his speech to Americans for Prosperity last week. Translation: I will never balance the budget. By contrast, the plan outlined by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, one of Romney's rivals in the race for the Republican nomination, would balance the budget by 2015.

Clearly, Paul's idea of "absolutely essential" government programs is a bit narrower than Romney's. But whose isn't?

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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