The arcane legislation cobbled together by House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the Obama White House doesn't increase our taxes, but it does raise the U.S. government's debt limit by a staggering $2 trillion in order to "preserve our AAA credit rating." The agreement says our government will somehow reduce spending by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade. It also creates a special 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction -- composed of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, six from each house of Congress -- to propose ways to reduce our federal deficit by $1.5 trillion. This joint committee is to present its deficit reduction plan by Thanksgiving, and Congress must pass it by Christmas. Sound complicated? It is. And worse, the whole agreement is chock-full of dirty little secrets.
The "deal" identifies no automatic cuts in so-called entitlement spending -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. But it does require reductions in national defense expenditures, of 6 percent next year and 7.5 percent in 2013. In round numbers, that's about $400 billion less that the U.S. will spend on defending itself over the next decade. Worse, the cuts will begin while we still are fighting 2.5 wars. And that's not all.
Though Republicans claim the legislation will "protect" our military -- now closing on a decade at war -- from "major cuts," that's a hollow promise. The new law mandates that funds for national security and "discretionary domestic programs," not entitlements, be automatically "sequestered" -- meaning "not spent" -- if Congress cannot agree on $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions by Christmas. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this "trigger mechanism" would double cuts in defense and require across-the-board reductions in military spending. He termed this outcome "dangerous" and "completely unacceptable."
The defense secretary's comments echo those of U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey's last week. During confirmation hearings to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dempsey warned members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that it would be "extraordinarily difficult and very high-risk" to double the Obama administration's commitment to cut $400 billion from our military over the next decade. In a written response to committee questions, he said, "National security didn't cause the debt crisis nor will it solve it."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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