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July 30th, 2012
07:36 PM ET

Congress fears mandatory military budget cuts: How bad are the cuts?

There are just four days left until Congress takes a month-long recess, leaving the fiscal cliff hanging.

Dire consequences of the looming fiscal cliff include:

  • Tax cuts automatically expiring for everyone
  • Payroll taxes going up
  • Emergency unemployment benefits ending
  • $1.2 trillion in sequestration cuts, with about half of that sum coming from defense

“The obligation of the commander-in-chief is to act like the commander-in-chief and that would be to prevent these cuts, which, in the words of his own secretary of defense would devastate our national security,” said Senator John McCain at a recent town hall meeting in Virginia.

However, CNN's Erin Burnett points out that previous commanders in chief have done a lot more than President Barack Obama may be about to do. A chart from the Center for American Progress and the Department of Defense outlines how the country has been in this dilemma before:

  • Ronald Reagan cut defense spending by about 10%
  • George H.W. Bush continued those cuts at about 18%
  • Bill Clinton did start to increase defense spending, but it still ended lower than where it was when he took office with a cut of 5%

Overall, defense spending is higher now than it was during the Cold War and during Vietnam. So, asks Burnett, “Do the claims of national security disaster add up when it comes to the sequestration?”

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Filed under: Economy • OutFront Deconstruct • Politics