Romney takes defense cuts off the table

Ask the American mainstream which parts of the federal budget should get cut, and defense spending is usually one of the more common responses. But in Republican politics, especially at the presidential level, it’s not nearly this simple.

To be sure, there is a contingent within the GOP that’s so desperate to cut federal spending and reduce the deficit, they’re willing to put defense on the table. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was asked in January, in the context of a discussion about spending cuts, “Do you consider the defense budget sacred?” He replied, “Absolutely not.”

But in general, most Republicans, alleged deficit-reduction goals notwithstanding, consider funding for the military off-limits. Yesterday, for example, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney (R) vowed not to reduce defense spending at all if elected.

Romney said that he would be open to redirecting spending within the defense budget to ensure that it’s more efficiently allocated, and to eliminate waste. But the overall budget won’t face cuts.

“I’m not going to cut the defense budget,” Romney said in a question-and-answer session on his Facebook page.

The former Massachusetts governor acknowledged that there’s “a lot of waste” in the defense budget, and that “there’s work that we have to do with the money that we have.” But, Romney reiterated, he wouldn’t cut the overall budget.

This isn’t especially surprising. Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, back when he was an apparent candidate, said he’d gladly cut the Pentagon budget, and was immediately attacked from the right for saying so. Romney, not exactly a Profile in Courage kind of guy, no doubt wants to avoid this kind of heat.

But Romney’s pandering is impossible to take seriously. We’re spending $700 billion a year on defense, nearly as much as every other country on the planet combined. The former governor doesn’t want to reduce that total by a penny? Even with Pentagon officials agreeing that it’s time to trim their budget?

What’s more, we have a $1.5 trillion deficit, which Romney claims to care about. If he intends to balance the budget, and he refuses to consider tax increases or defense cuts, how exactly does Romney plan to close the budget shortfall? Applying profits from unicorn sales?

Postscript: Given that Romney considers this “peacetime,” shouldn’t he be prepared to make defense cuts?