Jacob Heilbrunn

Why the Tea Party Is Right About Defense Spending

My new hero is Rep. Chris Gibson. Gibson, a Tea Party member, laid it on the line the other day at a congressional hearing. While other Republicans bluster about maintaining spending, Gibson, who served in the military, observed that the growing national debt is itself a threat to our national security.

He's right. The Congressional Budget Office now estimates a budget deficit of $1.5 trillion for 2011. This cannot continue. The Los Angeles Times ran a cartoon the other day about America's impoverishment showing President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao at the state dinner eating McDonald's hamburgers and shakes. Hu says, If you needed more money, why didn't you just say so?

So far creditors have been willing to buy T-bills at amazingly low interest rates. But at some point interest rates will have to go up. The debt will soar. Then what? Already Japan is being buffeted as investors take a closer look at it's ability to service it's debts. Most of the solutions being proposed by the House Republicans are gimmicks.they have no more desire than Obama to engage in real cuts. If the proposals of the debt commission that Obama created get a serious hearing, however, real progress could be made. But with the 2012 election looming, any solution would have to be bipartisan.

At this point the Tea Party can play a valuable role. It will have toss force the GOP to stop trying to exempt the military from budget cuts. It can also raise questions about America's imperial strategy abroad.

The military can no more be shielded from scrutiny than any other government agency or program. Rep. Gibson is on target. The greatest threat to America may well be its indebtedness. And there's no reason to feel gratitude to anyone about that. Profligacy, hubris, and complacency are the culprits.