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They didn't listen

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

-- Dwight Eisenhower, Jan. 17, 1961.

Mr. Ryan professes to be a defense hawk, though the true conservatives of modern times — Calvin Coolidge, Herbert C. Hoover, Robert A. Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, even Gerald R. Ford — would have had no use for the neoconconservative imperialism that the G.O.P. cobbled from policy salons run by Irving Kristol's ex-Trotskyites three decades ago. These doctrines now saddle our bankrupt nation with a roughly $775 billion "defense" budget in a world where we have no advanced industrial state enemies and have been fired (appropriately) as the global policeman.

Indeed, adjusted for inflation, today's national security budget is nearly double Eisenhower's when he left office in 1961 (about $400 billion in today's dollars) — a level Ike deemed sufficient to contain the very real Soviet nuclear threat in the era just after Sputnik. By contrast, the Romney-Ryan version of shrinking Big Government is to increase our already outlandish warfare-state budget and risk even more spending by saber-rattling at a benighted but irrelevant Iran.

-- David Stockman, New York Times op-ed, Aug. 14, 2012.

How true -- it's impossible to take anyone seriously as a deficit hawk when the biggest source of government waste is completely off the table. It's politically savvy to make fun of the notion of a "grand bargain" on reducing the deficit but the reality is the loose framework was there. There are three big ideas -- sharply cutting defense spending, restoring taxes on the wealthy to the rates of the booming 1990s, and smart health care cuts such as a better records system and reducing unnecessary tests -- that are so common sensical they should transcend ideology and party. And of the three, defense cuts would be -- in a perfect world -- be what that annoying mortage commercial guy calls "the biggest no brainer in the history of mankind."

If only we had listened to Ike.