We move into the coming year, as the inspiration and renewal provided by the March For Life winds down. For the nation as a whole, the feel-good atmosphere that surrounds the inauguration of a new presidential term begins to fade, and everyone settles back into political reality. And what the reality is an unsustainable federal budget situation that’s casually passed over by political gimmicks or insignificant solutions.
Neither party is blameless. The GOP brings the gimmicks—who really cares about whether the debt limit is extended if you’re not going to solve the structural budget problems that drive the debt in the first place? And President Obama has mastered the art of delivering insignificant solutions that make everyone feel better for a little while before it’s realized there’s no substantive impact—his rhetoric that a tiny tax increase on a few millionaires would make all the budget problems go away serve as the crown jewel of this agenda.
Into this vacuum of ideas steps Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass who offered a thoughtful column today. Kass’ advice is addressed to the Republican Party in particular. As a disaffected, exiled,, traditionalist Democrat, I don’t have the same stake in the GOP, but Kass offers several points that can be reflected upon by anyone who thinks this Administration in particular, and the overall political climate in general is badly wanting.
Kass, in a rebuke to current GOP establishment thinking, notes the following—“ the GOP backs defense contracts for wars that the middle class doesn’t want to fight.”
The rebuke is correct, although as we’ll get to in a moment it can extend beyond the boundaries of the Republican Party. Like the columnist, I don’t endorse his words in some anti-military way. It’s about asking where the limits of American power are and when we think we’ve overstretched. In an era when we’re running $16 trillion deficit, trying to figure which programs to cut and whose taxes to raise, why do we continue to bankroll the defense of nations from Europe to Asia?
And from a cultural standpoint that I presume readers here at Catholic Vote would at least sympathize with, why do we want to export current American culture all over the globe? Didn’t we just finish with a protest in march in excess of a half-million people that sent a loud and clear message that the government of the United States refuses to legally protect its most innocent? Why, exactly, are we anxious to share this with the rest of the world?
Both parties are steeped in ideologies that make reducing American troop levels—and their attendants costs—politically impossible.
Contemporary conservatives have bought into the idea that anything short of maintaining a massive military presence everywhere in the world is tantamount to burying one’s head in the sand and becoming an isolationist.
Contemporary liberals will talk a good game about wanting to cut the military-industrial complex. But when it comes time to actually implement this, the loudest protests will come from Western Europe, where the United States is invested heavily in their defense. Bringing troops home means the people of Western Europe won’t say nice things about Obama or swoon in his presence, and that’s a cost positively untenable for today’s American Left.
The overextension of the American military violates conservative precepts about limited government and liberal precepts about not being a global empire. It violates current fiscal reality and it ignores that there’s more work and healing that has be to done internally within this country. Whether a significant revamp of U.S. foreign and military policy is done by a Republican challenger or a Democratic insurgent, it’s a cause that someone should jump on.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com