Debt & Taxes
Is Hagel the DOD's Worst Enemy on Budget Cuts?
Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - 11:37am
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Conservative analysts worry that President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, will shrink the Pentagon’s budget even more than already expected.

With the war in Iraq over and the conflict in Afghanistan steadily winding down, Obama and Congress have ordered nearly $500 billion in reductions to the defense budget over the next decade. But with the country still confronting record deficits, many leaders at the Pentagon are resigned to the likelihood that further cuts are inevitable, followed by fresh rounds of infighting over money.

“If the picture was gloomy before, the clouds just got darker,” Thomas Donnelly, a defense and security policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Washington Post. “Hagel’s just been recruited to be a front man for further budget cuts.”

While announcing the nomination on Monday, the president alluded to Hagel’s experience making “tough fiscal choices.” Obama hinted that scaling back the Pentagon’s budget even more than currently called for under a budget approved by the administration and Congress would be a major task for the new secretary of defense.

“As a successful businessman, he also knows that even as we make tough fiscal choices, we have to do so wisely, guided by our strategy, and keep our military the strongest fighting force the world has ever known,” Obama said.   -  Read more at The Washington Post

DEBT-CEILING DOOMSDAY SOONER THAN EXPECTED    The government could begin running  out of cash  to pay its bills by as early as Feb. 15, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, forcing a worse-case scenario, in which Treasury officials  officials would have to decide who gets paid and who doesn’t.

 “Our numbers show that we have less time to solve this problem than many realize,” Steve Bell, a senior official at the Bipartisan Policy Center, told reporters at a briefing on Monday.

The Treasury department has already begun taking “extraordinary measures” to keep the government’s lights on, after hitting the borrowing limit on New Year’s Eve. However, there is only so much the Treasury can do before it runs out of cash. When that happens, The Fiscal Times’ Eric Pianin reports that “Treasury officials will have to consider a number of draconian moves to pay its creditors and keep the government afloat – such as delaying billions of dollars of income tax refunds, postponing Medicare and Medicaid payments to providers, cutting off food stamps and furloughing government workers, according to experts. In many ways, a default on the debt would prove to be far more damaging than a government shutdown.”    -  Read more at The Fiscal Times

OBAMA SPENT  $18 BILLION ON  IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT    Last year the Obama administration spent nearly $18 billion on immigration enforcement, making it the federal government’s highest criminal law enforcement priority, according to a report published Monday by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group based in Washington.

The report shows the Department of Homeland Security’s two primary immigration enforcement agencies have referred more cases to courts for prosecution than all of the Justice Department’s law enforcement agencies.

The report’s purpose was to use public figures to demonstrate that the country has built a “formidable enforcement machinery.”  The New York Times’ writes that the report’s intent was to respond to GOP lawmakers who have argued that the White House should be doing more to strengthen enforcement before Congress can even consider legalizing an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.  -  Read more in The New York Times

DEMS URGE OBAMA TO INVOKE 14TH AMENDMENT   Twenty-One House Democrats signed letter urging President Obama to use section four of the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling unilaterally and avoid what’s certain to be a bruising showdown with congressional Republicans over the nation’s borrowing limit in the coming months.

The lawmakers say Obama isn’t constrained by the 1917 debt limit law, because it conflicts with other laws. 

“The president I think has the authority under the Constitution and under the various statutes that are passed — if nothing is done — he must do something about paying the bills,” said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. “That issue may well go to the courts in our system.”   -   Read more at The Hill

FISCAL CLIFF WIN FOR OBAMA, BUT NOT AMERICA     A new Pew Research survey found that 57 percent of respondents believe the fiscal cliff deal enacted last week was a victory for President Obama, while just 20 percent said Republicans benefited politically from the deal. However, the poll isn’t all good news for the president. Some 52 percent of respondents said they believed the agreement hurt them personally, while 30 percent said they believed it would help them.   -   See the Pew poll results here

COLBERT'S TAKE ON THE TRILLION DOLLAR PLATNUM COIN SOLUTION    During Monday night’s “Colbert Report,” Stephen Colbert entertained the idea floating around Washington that President Obama could mint a $1 trillion coin to avoid hitting the nation’s debt ceiling.

"We should have known that a coin was Obama's solution to everything. It was right there in his slogan... CHANGE,” Colbert said.

The idea, which has gained support from notable economists and several members of Congress, would allow Obama to mint a platinum coin if the nation moves close to defaulting during the debt ceiling debate in the next couple of months.

“Then Ben Bernanke goes to the vending machine in the Fed break room,  inserts the coin and picks either cheese nips or save the world’s economy,” Colbert explained.

Watch clip here:

Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.