Debate Club

Van Hollen: Slash-and-Burn Budget Cutting Will Only Harm Us

By Chris Van Hollen SHARE

The Budget Control Act, which was a difficult compromise to avert an economic crisis and avoid defaulting on our debt, included two parts. First, it reduced defense and nondefense spending over the next decade by about $900 billion. Second, it codified an agreement to reduce the deficit by another $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Because Democrats and Republicans were unable to agree on how to achieve this second round of savings, the agreement included a "Sword of Damocles"—indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts of almost $1 trillion, 50 percent from defense and 50 percent from much of nondefense—if Congress failed to agree on a different deficit reduction plan. This slash-and-burn approach isn't the best way forward for our country but was included as a measure of last resort to force both parties to come together and agree on a plan to reduce the deficit.

[Check out our collection of political cartoons on defense spending.]

It would be a big mistake to allow these additional cuts to take place for two important reasons: they would be too deep and too arbitrary. That's why both the president's budget and the House Democratic alternative budget would replace this slash-and-burn mechanism with a plan to achieve greater deficit reduction from targeted, balanced policy choices. While we may be able to achieve further reductions in discretionary spending—both defense and nondefense—in the future, it must be done in a targeted and strategic way. As President Obama has said, "the size and the structure of our military and defense budgets have to be driven by a strategy, not the other way around."

Our budget replaces these meat-ax cuts with a combination of reductions from mandatory programs like agriculture subsidies and revenues generated by eliminating tax loopholes and asking millionaires to return to the same top tax rate they paid during the Clinton administration. Unfortunately, the Republicans have rejected that balanced approach. Because they refuse to raise a single penny by cutting tax breaks for the wealthy, their plan hits virtually everyone and everything else. The GOP budget ends the Medicare guarantee, raises the costs of student loans, increases the tax burden on middle-income Americans, and guts important investments in our economy. An independent study shows that their plan will result in large jobs losses just as the economy is slowly recovering.

[Read Why the Paul Ryan Budget Won’t Fly.]

We should reject that lopsided approach and adopt the balanced framework recommended by every bipartisan commission and reflected in the Democratic budget plan.

Chris Van Hollen

About Chris Van Hollen Member of the United States House of Representatives

deficit and national debt
federal budget
Department of Defense
defense spending

Other Arguments

265 Pts
Sequestration Will Cause Irreparable Harm to National Defense

Yes – Sequestration Will Cause Irreparable Harm to National Defense

Mackenzie Eaglen Resident Fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute

-19 Pts
Given Our Big Debt and Weak Enemies, We Need Some Cuts

Yes – Given Our Big Debt and Weak Enemies, We Need Some Cuts

Benjamin H. Friedman Research Fellow in Defense and Homeland Security Studies at the Cato Institute

-57 Pts
Sequestration Is Irresponsible

Yes – Sequestration Is Irresponsible

Travis Sharp Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security

-87 Pts
Cut Elsewhere Before Defense Gets the Ax

Yes – Cut Elsewhere Before Defense Gets the Ax

Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies at the Heritage Foundation

-215 Pts
6 Reasons to Keep the Defense Budget Sequestration Cuts

No – 6 Reasons to Keep the Defense Budget Sequestration Cuts

Lawrence J. Korb Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress

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