Yesterday afternoon, President Barack Obama told his Economic Recovery Advisory Board: “I realize that we are facing an untenable fiscal situation. What I won’t do is cut back on investments like education.” Meanwhile what our Commander in Chief is very willing to cut is defense. In Bob Woodard’s new book Obama’s War , the President is reported telling Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “I am not spending a trillion dollars” on war costs. And he told Vice President Joe Biden exactly why: “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.”

Since 1960, federal spending on education has tripled while test scores have remained flat. Meanwhile, even after factoring the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan, our nation will only spend 4.9% of GDP on defense this year compared to a post-Word War II average of 6.5%. Education is arguably a local responsibility that should be controlled at the local level with as little federal interference as possible. And even if you think federal spending on education is necessary, it is not mentioned anywhere in the U.S. Constitution, and the Department of Education did not even exist until President Jimmy Carter invented it. But the phrase “provide for the common defense” is right there in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

An explosion in domestic spending, particularly from entitlement programs–Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid–is the true source of our nation’s “untenable fiscal situation,” not defense.  Furthermore, our nation’s continued economic prosperity is entirely dependent on a peaceful world. With this in mind, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) President Arthur Brooks, the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) Director William Kristol, and The Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner wrote in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:

[M]ilitary spending is not a net drain on our economy. It is unrealistic to imagine a return to long-term prosperity if we face instability around the globe because of a hollowed-out U.S. military lacking the size and strength to defend American interests around the world.

Global prosperity requires commerce and trade, and this requires peace. But the peace does not keep itself. The Global Trends 2025 report, which reflects the consensus of the U.S. intelligence community, anticipates the rise of new powers—some hostile—and projects a demand for continued American military power. Meanwhile we face many non-state threats such as terrorism, and piracy in sea lanes around the world. Strength, not weakness, brings the true peace dividend in a global economy.

But the Obama administration is simply not doing enough to ensure that our strength is preserved. We now have the smallest Navy we have ever had since 1916 and the oldest Air Force in recorded history. Heritage Foundation Research Fellow for National Security Studies Mackenzie Eaglen writes: “Between 2010 and 2015, total defense spending is set to fall from 4.9 percent to 3.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), even though the nation has assigned more missions to the military over the past two decades.”

Cutting defense spending is not the answer to our economic woes. After years of presidents taking “peace dividends,” by starving the Pentagon while drastically increasing spending in other areas, we are needlessly hollowing out our armed forces. When troops go to battle in the future, they will lack resources, and suffer unnecessary failures and our national security will be compromised. Like the looming Obama tax hikes, liberals would like to pin this problem on the Tea Parties, arguing that they are the ones arguing for spending cuts, which liberals say should include defense. For one, that presumes all Tea Partiers are alike, rather than a mix of conservatives and libertarians with differing views. But more importantly, it ignores that many in the conservative movement understand that a strong and modern defense system should not be sacrificed for the unhelpful pork and government largesse typical of recent Congresses. These Tea Partiers, which would include champions such as former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), embrace President Reagan’s motto of “peace through strength.”

Sacrificing our nation’s defenses at the expense of the entitlement state will neither lower our deficits nor protect our citizens. It appears to be the policy of this White House that Washington should no longer be a leader in the world, but instead should be content with managing America’s decline in a “post-American” world. This is not acceptable. Congress must better strengthen our nation by reforming entitlement spending while funding the people and platforms necessary for a balanced defense.

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