The “1 percent” has been getting a lot of attention recently. Its members are essential to America’s interests, yet have become pawns in our politics. Both parties profess to support the 1 percent while using them to their political advantage.
In Congress, 80 percent of the members have never been part of the 1 percent. That might explain why it’s easy for them to make decisions that threaten the 1 percent’s well-being.
Who are these 1 percent under threat? Are they multimillionaires? No, they are Americans who serve in today’s military. Our military troops and national defense are under threat by a Congress that cannot seem to compromise to prevent the painful automatic cuts known as sequestration.
Starting Jan. 1, 2013, sequestration imposes $500 billion in defense cuts over the next decade. These draconian cuts were intended to force Congress’ Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to compromise and produce a deficit reduction deal. They were never intended to actually take place.
Not surprisingly, civilian and military defense leaders, and even members of Congress, have strongly condemned sequestration. Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos described it as “very, very dangerous.”
THE DAMAGE done to national security aside, sequestration will lead to enormous wastes of money. For example, if military contracts are pre-emptively cancelled, termination clauses require payment even if no work is done.
To head off sequestration, Congress needs to approve a plan to produce the same deficit reduction with a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases.
The Republicans want to fix the sequestration problem with spending cuts only. But Democrats agreed to the Republicans’ demand in 2011 to no increases in revenue during the debt-ceiling deficit reduction process. They will not accept that deal again.
The Democrats propose to eliminate sequestration through a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases. President Obama told Democrats they will have to accept entitlement cuts in exchange for Republicans accepting revenue increases.
Republicans now face a very difficult choice: Stick with their position of no revenue increases and cause a self-induced defense funding crisis, or accept revenue increases and maintain adequate defense spending.
REPUBLICANS HAVE countered that since the president is the commander-in-chief, he has the responsibility to protect the military, and therefore he should accept their plan. Thinking that Republicans can be absolved of responsibility for national defense is nonsense. Republicans need to be part of the solution.
Republican leaders should make the choice to protect the military by accepting revenue
increases along with spending cuts.
Republicans, independents and many Democrats would applaud a Republican leadership that compromises on taxes to defend the military. Such a move would bring the Republican leadership in line with more than 60 percent of American voters who believe that increased revenues need to be part of a solution for our fiscal imbalance.
Those Republicans who now believe in no revenue increases would agree to increased revenues if it meant preserving a strong military.
Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia has been a national leader in formulating a rational plan to control the deficit. He has articulated clearly how sequestration damages national security and Georgia’s defense industry. He would replace sequestration with a balanced plan of spending cuts and increased revenue from an overhaul of the tax code to include lower rates and reduced loopholes.
Republican leaders should follow Chambliss’ lead and protect our most valuable 1 percent.
(The writer is a retired U.S. Navy officer. He lives and writes in Savannah.)