I asked an investor in the health-care sector last night about the impact of Obamacare. He pointed out to me that it hasn’t really been implemented yet and won’t be until after the next election. He predicted that, with Republicans likely to take control of the Senate, it will never be implemented in its original form. But of course much will depend on the outcome of the next election—not only for Congress but for president. The same is true when it comes to the defense budget.
Yesterday, I testified before the House Armed Services Committee about the catastrophic consequences of “sequestration”—the process whereby Congress may whack up to $600 billion from the defense budget later this year unless an alternative can be found. This would be on top of the roughly $465 billion in cuts already announced this year. If implemented, this would make it impossible for the armed forces to maintain our current security commitments and could well cripple America’s standing as a superpower. But, as anyone who knows anything about Washington will tell you, a current budget does not dictate spending more than a year out.
While the current Congress and president could institute damaging budget cuts for the next two fiscal years (FY 2012, which begins next month, and FY 2013, which begins in October 2012) they cannot dictate spending levels for the next decade—the period of time when the above cuts are due to be implemented. If Republicans capture control of both houses and the White House next year, they could redirect more spending to the armed services.
Whether they would do so is an open question, because at least some Republicans are willing to sacrifice defense spending to avoid tax increases and to bring down the debt. But most Republican lawmakers appear determined to protect our national defense (the first duty of government), and there is a much greater likelihood of fully funding the defense budget under Republican control than if Democrats hold sway.
I know partisans invariably tout every election as uniquely important. Usually, that’s just hype. But in the case of 2012, it’s not. The next election really will be critical in determining the country’s future in all sorts of areas, ranging from health care to defense.