By Peter Galuszka

A couple of days ago I went to my mailbox next to the brightly-bloomed crepe myrtles and there was a four-color brochure from my Congressman, Randy Forbes, whose district stretches from the military-saturated cities of South Hampton Roads to the southern part of Chesterfield County where I live.

Randy Forbes is a Republican, which puts him in a strange contradiction. To be true to his party, he must go along with the anti-government bureaucracy and spending rhetoric mastered by Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader whose district abuts his.

Forbes also must represent the military. True to form, his brochure was titled “Fighting Against Devastating Defense Cuts.” Here are some of his details:

  • Some 207,571 Virginia jobs will be lost if “looming defense sequestration cuts are not averted.”
  • Another 29,000 workers that could be affected are employed by the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and at Huntington Ingalls, a major ship building and repair firm.
  • About 4,800 people work in Hampton Roads at the computer simulation sector related to defense.
  • Forbes claims some credit for the 11,796 jobs at Ft. Lee near Petersburg which won big in the last round of BRAC assessments to become a key logistics center for the Army and other services.
  • If sequestration occurs, Forbes  says it would make it hard for the military to fight and win two major campaigns at the same time.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ll be accused as being a soft-headed liberal for making these points, and I may well be. I’m not anti-defense although I believe U.S. power can be right and wrong. The Iraq and Vietnam Wars, for instance, were wrong. Opposing terrorism and being able to stand down the Soviet Union were necessary tasks. The U.S. had no choice but to participate in World War II and may have been too late in doing so. Korea was a tossup.

My point is that Virginia is still a huge government state. It has been this way ever since the United States emerged as a world power more than a century ago. It is hypocritical for conservatives to play it both ways and refuse to acknowledge reality. Even worse are those squirrelly Libertarian-types who talk out of both sides of their mouths. You know who I mean.

You will hear a lot on this blog that’s neo-Calvinist — about how we’ll reach “Boomergeddon” (as imagined as nuclear blast on a book cover) if we don’t start cutting spending now. What’s not mentioned of course is that tightening may be necessary but so is raising taxes and other sources of revenue. You don’t do this by giving tax breaks to corporations and the ultra rich. In Virginia, for instance, roads go lacking because state politicians are too fearful of raising the tax gasoline tax which hasn’t been adjusted for inflation in about two decades.

Economists worry that we’re heading towards a new recession in 2013 if the current flavor-of-the-times thinking about government cuts continues and things like sequestration occur. It won’t matter if Romney or Obama is president.

Once again, you can’t cut your way out of a downturn. As far as impacts to my congressional district, I have to admit that Randy Forbes has a point. It will affect the well being of the state as well as the nation.

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  1. FreeDem Avatar

    It’s the height of hypocrisy for a House Republican who prides himself on having voted against every single stimulus and bailout, Republican and Democratic, to suddenly freak out about cuts to government spending that may happen to impact his district. Austrian economics for everyone else, Keynesian for his district!

  2. Bring on Sequestration. It won’t affect me directly at all.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Maybe you rent your residence, I don’t know. I own my house in Northern Virginia and I am expecting a 25 – 30% haircut in home value if sequestration occurs. A slower, more managed reduction in federal spending would be much more manageable and would result in a much lighter haircut (perhaps 10%).

      Of course, if sequestration happens there will be a very rapid set of layoffs. I’ve been talking to federal executives and they tell me the contractors will go immediately. Since the NoVa government contractors have never been able to build a competent commercial business they will lay off people immediately. Hopefully, they will provide a few months of severance but that will go fast. Remembering that the vast majority of income taxes are paid by the top 50% of wage earners, you can expect state income taxes to fall fast. You can also expect sales taxes to drop as people “tighten their belts”. Expect to see a number of restaurants, car dealerships, etc go under.

      Local county and city governments will raise the real estate tax rate as fast as necessary to keep the same number of dollars flowing into their overstuffed coffers. This will only hasten the speed with which those having employable skills leave. The spiral will pretty quickly leave police, fire, schools, etc underfunded.

      At the state level, the transfer payments from NoVa and Tidewater will quickly evaporate. There will be immediate talk of jiggering the school funding formula to take the same amount of money out of NoVa as was done in the past – regardless of the agreements in place. This will leave the localities scrambling to either raise taxes even faster – thus hastening the spiral – or, dropping services quickly. Crime will increase and the school rankings will fall. Both will further decrease real estate values.

      The speed with which sequestration would take effect won’t allow for any real re-organization of the local economy. The employable will leave quickly for San Francisco, Austin, Boston, New York City and the other high tax places that are never among the “best places for business” but are places that will have jobs for those with skills.

  3. re: bring on sequestration

    even if they cut Medicare and govt Pensions?


    the most amazing thing to me is the fact that most folks do not truly understand just how much National Defense is costing us – when you include things like NASA, and the VA, and both military and civilian DOD pensions and health care.

    and remember… many DOD employees are also part of Social Security and Medicare …

    the GOP basically ignores this and continues to advocate that cutting MedicAid and Medicare will balance the budget – and it will not – not even come close.

    Paul Ryan’s “plan” to cut Medicare and MedicAid but not DOD – does not reach budget balance until 2037 and it does so on highly questionable assumptions that most economists and CBO says are just plain unrealistic. He’s basically relying on highly questionable supply-side redux from the Bush years.

    These guys never give up.. they’re totally living in LA LA Land and unfortunately they’ve sold it to a lot of folks who basically do little more investigation than listening to sound bites and Carl Rove PAC blather.

    What the GOP has figured out is that the average American will buy into political “soap” the same way they can be sold Tide and Viagra.

  4. There is a kernel of truth in what Peter writes: The Republicans don’t seem to understand that it is impossible to reach a balanced budget without cutting defense. I went through the exercise in “Boomergeddon” to see if it could be done and concluded that it can’t. Republicans — and that includes Paul Ryan, whom I otherwise respect immensely — are just deluding themselves.

    Of course, the Dems refuse to cut domestic spending or entitlements, which accounts for roughly three times as much spending as the military. They have deluded themselves that we can achieve a sustainable fiscal path by cutting military spending and raising taxes on the rich. We can’t. The Donkeys are more deluded than the elephants.

    As for Peter’s point that “you can’t cut your way out of a downturn.” No, you can’t. But the Dems don’t have the political will to cut anytime ever. At no time in the foreseeable future will economic growth ever be robust enough to persuade Democrats that it is now finally time to cut. So, we will continue to run $1 trillion-a-year deficits until the whole thing collapses. Then the cuts will be way bigger, and the politicians will effectively lose control over the process.

    The CBO talks of a 1% decline in GDP if the U.S. hits the fiscal cliff next year. That’s a lot smaller than what happens when deficits account for 10% of GDP and you wake up one day and can’t borrow the money anymore.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Your 1% decline statistic is putting the very best spin on things. The CBO believes that GDP in the first 6 months of 2013 would decline by 3%. GDP grew by 2.0% in the first quarter and 1.5% in the second quarter. So, the first half or 2013 will see a 4.5% to 5% contraction in GDP growth from the first half of this year.

      Frankly, I have no faith whatsoever in economists predicting the aftermath of what would be a double dip recession. There have been too few and the predictions around those double dips were generally wrong.

      You might want to look at the Great Depression before you hoot and holler about the end of Boomergeddon. From 1929 to 1933 US GDP fell every year. It started rising again from 1934 through 1937 but fell again in 1938. The US economy would not reach its 1929 GDP level again until 1941.

      Will the contraction in the first half of 2013 put us on the road for 4.6% GDP growth in 2014 as the CBO says? Or, will a second contraction in four years cause another several years of stagnation as occurred in 1941?

      Also, do you have any pending wars handy? At the end of the day, the substantial recovery from 1941 through 1945 could be chalked up to WWII. What did that cost us? 417,000 dead on a population of 131M. That’s would be about 1M dead on today’s population.

      What do you think – Iran? North Korea? China?

      All of you amateur hour economists are playing with fire when you think you can predict the final outcome of sequestration and another two quarter GDP decline.

  5. re: ” Of course, the Dems refuse to cut domestic spending or entitlements, which accounts for roughly three times as much spending as the military. They have deluded themselves that we can achieve a sustainable fiscal path by cutting military spending and raising taxes on the rich. We can’t. The Donkeys are more deluded than the elephants.”

    the Dems support across the board sequestration cuts that INCLUDE BOTH entitlements AND national defense. Many Dems also support Simpson/Bowles which cuts entitlements, DOD AND increases some taxes to pay down the deficit.

    The GOP wants to cut ONLY entitlements and that’s not only delusion – it’s outright deception when the ” highly respected” Ryan stands up and blathers about the deficit and the debt but refuses to say how to get there – basically saying “trust me, I’ll tell you after I’m elected”.

    Obama has said from the get go – that we cannot cut heavily immediately and what has the GOP said? They’ve hammered him over this UNTIL the deadline for the sequestration cuts drew near and now they are whining about how the cuts will “devastate” DOD.

    Let’s take a closer look at these “devastating” cuts:

    ” The reductions total $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The first-year cuts are $110 billion, split evenly from defense and domestic programs, from a budget of $3.8 trillion.

    110 billion from a deficit of a trillion.

    55 billion from a DOD budget that is over 900 billion.

    Every since Obama became Prez, the GOP has been blathering about cuts to balance the budget. Their non-nonsensical proposals suggested trillion dollar cuts to entitlements but none to DOD.

    Now, when we have across the board cuts to be shared by DOD – what do they say?

    the GOP, and Mr. Ryan are not fiscal conservatives. They are big govt, social conservatives who would have the govt in your bedroom but they are in no way, shape or form – truly legitimate fiscal conservatives unless it applies only to entitlements.

    I wonder exactly what DJ is expecting from the Romney/Ryan team since both refuse to provide any level of detail as to their “plan”.

    remember – Obama supports Sequestration… and he is flexible on how/when to implement it. the GOP is opposed to sequestration that affects DOD to which Mr. Bacon (and many economists) agrees.. cannot balance the budget without cuts to DOD.

    How can we get to a balanced budget if the self-professed fiscal conservatives AKA the GOP – are essentially feckless on the issue?

  6. re: entitlements are 3 times the DOD budget.

    really? how about showing how?

    DOD is more than 900 billion

    MedicAid is about 300 billion
    Medicare Part B is about 220 billion
    Parts C&D add another billion

    I have a hard time coming up with more than a billion in entitlements, perhaps you can show a list that proves the 3X assertion.

    Remember also, DOD is not the whole defense enchilada.

    If you say National Defense – you have to include NASA, the VA and civilian and military pensions and health care (which by the way are ALSO listed as “entitlements”.

    the irony here is that the “entitlements” that are DOD-related are added in to the other entitlements but I doubt seriously that those who claim to be fiscal conservatives would agree to cut military and civilian DOD pensions and health care – which just adds to the hypocrisy… of those who say we need to cut entitlements but not DOD.

  7. to say that we cannot cut DOD by 5-10% to help balance the budget is beyond belief.

    What this proves to me is that folks like Ryan and Forbes are not serious fiscal conservatives and instead are big govt spenders – for the things they want to spend tax money on.

    What it also proves is the utter fallacy or misrepresentation that the GOP is engaging in when they claim (as Ryan does) that we can balance the budget by cutting entitlements only.

    How could ANYONE actually vote for these guys when from the get go, they are lying out their backsides OR worse they are deluded in their thinking?

  8. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Just a “kernel” of truth? You mean like a tiny element of a corn cob? We’re talking 200K jobs lost in the Old Dominion due to cost cutting mania and I am a corn cob?

    Thank you so much!

  9. DJRippert Avatar

    Chap Petersen is one of the very, very few members of the Virginia General Assembly who I respect. His take on sequestration is worth reading:

    I am not entirely sure how either Kaine or Allen can do anything about sequestration since they won’t be inaugurated before the decision is made, as I understand it. However, Kaine’s heart is in the right place and (for a change) so is his mind. Compromise on a combination of tax increases and spending cuts is clearly the right approach. But, will the politicians in office when the decision is made do the right thing?

    Probably not.

  10. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Fed budget? One third defense? Health care one quarter? the rest? You are the maestro, please explain? Your complaints, sir?

  11. DJRippert Avatar

    Any discussion of the size of government, taxes or the percentage of defense spending should consider the size of all governments – federal, state, county and sometimes … city.

    It is a trick of the statists to mask the truly gargantuan size of government in America by slicing and dicing the beast in an attempt to make it seem smaller.

  12. Darrell Avatar

    Well they can cut the contractors if they want. But then all those Boomer aged GS12s will have to grab a toolbox and hit the floor. Contractors are the wrench turners. The GS manages, and the military types do military stuff like PT and go to endless meaningless meetings.

    The military is cutting back already, so if they are planning to get rid of contractors the active duty personnel end strength is going in the wrong direction. They would have to close hundreds of bases due to lack of manpower.

    No, contractors are just a smoke screen hiding a flood gate of forced GS ‘voluntary’ retirements. But I have said it before. You really ain’t seen nothing yet.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Darrell –
      You are obviously pretty well plugged in. The military has been cutting back. Up here in the land of abandoned SCIFs it’s obvious if you know what to look for.

      Contractors do much of the work that gets done. However, if you face a sudden drop in funding and you have to do something, then you cancel the non-mission projects and drop the contractors working on those projects. Then, you go after the gray zone projects that improve things that work (but not as well as they should) like wireless communications for first responders.

      Early retirements for the civil service gets the employees off your budget but not off the government’s budget (entirely) if they are eligable for pension benefits.

      We really ain’t seen nothing yet. And when we do, the howlers on this blog who pretend that this is trivial, inconsequential or in the best interests of America will be first to be shocked. When they can’t go walk around downtown Richmond because of a drop in tax revenues, when teachers have their pensions cut and their retirement plans are jeopardized, when their houses go permanently under water ….

  13. re: ” Compromise on a combination of tax increases and spending cuts is clearly the right approach. But, will the politicians in office when the decision is made do the right thing?”

    and you are supporting Ryan? do you think Ryan will support tax increases?

    you are correct – increased revenues combined with cuts – carefully and incrementally is the right approach.

    Now tell me that you’ve heard from Romney, Ryan, Allen, Cantor, Forbes and McDonnell that they support it.

    why would you vote for them if they simply continue to deal with the fiscal realities?

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Ryan’s plan to close tax loopholes is absolutely right. Ryan would have General Electric pay their fair share of taxes in years when they register billions of taxes. Obama not accepts that they don’t have to pay taxes, he makes their CEO his jobs czar.

      Like I said – even if Romney sucks he’ll suck less than Obama.

  14. ” why would you vote for them if they simply continue to deal with the fiscal realities?”

    simply REFUSE to deal with the realities?

    we used to have real fiscal conservatives… even a few blue dogs – and compromise was how we moved forward.

    what we have now is a bunch of cretins…who basically believe that the only way to go forward is for them to control both houses of Congress, the Presidency and the SCOTUS. Slash and burn…

    we need LESS of these types in office, not more. Cantor and Forbes are a disaster for the Federal budget.

  15. Richard Avatar

    It gets very dicey when you begin justifying the military as a social program. The military is the only social welfare program that the right wing can support, and so it is absolutely necessary to have it, because it gives them “juice” to make deals and to reward supporters. (Solyndra bad, Halliburton good.) The military is the right wing’s Medicare.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      You are right. No less a military man (and Republican) than Dwight Eisenhower coined the term “military industrial complex”.

      The federal budget needs to be cut and tax recepts need to rise. However, jumping off a fiscal cliff to do that just proves the incompetence of our elected officials.

  16. We don’t need to spend what we spend on defense and related contracting. We can cut, close bases, standardize weapons, etc., without going back to where we were before WWI.
    We don’t need to fund high-speed rail in California. We line the pockets of businesses. We cannot afford the government we have. We need to see some real cuts in spending. We need to see a bunch of lobbyists lose their jobs.

    1. DJRippert Avatar


      Great commercial. I want to run a company that makes billions in profits but pays no US corporate income taxes. Then, I want to named by the president as the “jobs czar”. I want to be a crony.

      Obama practices more cronyism than any president in my lifetime has ever practiced. No wonder he and the other libtards consider Paul Ryan dangerous. Close corporate loopholes? Then how would Obama, Pelosi, Reid, etc reward their friends and themselves.

      Valarie Jarret? The build where she has invested in Chicago is assessed for taxes at 1/4 of its value.

      Where’s Obama’s friend, mentor and business partner Tony Rezko? Oh, yeah … he’s in prison.

      But Virginia is the best state for business right? No cronyism in Virginia.

      Uh oh – time to go to the crony map:

  17. re: ” howlers on this blog who pretend that this is trivial, inconsequential or in the best interests of America will be first to be shocked.”

    it’s NOT trivial but it is necessary bitter medicine if we are to get our fiscal affairs under control. the timing and scope are TBD but doing it is necessary

    re: Ryan’s plan – please tell me what he plans to change in the tax code.

    re: the GOP “getting the job done”.

    DId the GOP get the job done under Bush?; What gives you such optimism especially when they are CURRENTLY either lying their butts off or worse, delusional? Do you REALLY think they are capable or committed give their past actions and current rhetoric?

    re: “we do not need to spend what we are spending now on DOD”.

    TMT is absolutely correct and where is the GOP on this?

    The GOP has a twin vise – 1. no taxes and 2. no cuts to DOD

    why would anyone expect them to produce real answers?

  18. re: GOP entitlements. The dirty little secret is that the VA and the health care of the uniformed and retired military and their families are listed in the Fed budget as “entitlements” but you can bet your butt that when the GOP talks about cutting entitlements they do not include the military ones but probably do include the civilian DOD entitlements.

    So Ryan is perfectly willing to throw seniors under the bus who did not serve in the military or were spouses.

    Think about that. If you were a teacher or a deputy the GOP plans on screwing you royally but if you moved boxes in a supply depot but wore a military uniform – you get treated differently.

    Do you actually hear the GOP saying this? Nope. Will it be what they do if they get the Presidency and both houses of Congress? Ask them. Their answer is “trust me”.

    this is the kind of governance that the GOP is offering and DJ and Bacon are slurping up like it was sweet nectar.

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