Ryan: Cutting Military Retirees To Save Military Spending

On Friday, I reported that the Senate needed five Republicans to vote in favor of the Ryan budget compromise in order for it to pass. Now, I read that they need eight Republicans to vote for it.

Senate Democrats are still short of the votes needed to pass a budget deal that would avoid a government shutdown in January and blunt automatic spending cuts, Senator Dick Durbin, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, said on Sunday.

“The struggle is still on in the United States Senate. We will need about eight Republicans to come our way. I feel we’ll have a good strong showing from the Democratic side, but we need bipartisan support to pass it,” Durbin, of Illinois, said on the CBS “Face the Nation” program.

So either my original news source was inaccurate, or else some Democrats in the Senate have changed the way they were voting so that they need more Republicans to make up for them.

Why would Democrats decide not to support this spending bill? One possibility is because it reduces the retirement of military personnel. According to the Weekly Standard this is affecting Republicans and I don’t know why it might not also dissuade some Democrats:

But the Ryan-Murray deal is not without its critics. In the Senate, a growing number of Republicans have objected to bill’s provision to reduce the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) by one percentage point for military retirees under the age of 62. Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma have all cited the issue as a dealbreaker for them.

As a possible necessary budget cut in an emergency program to cut spending, I think that cut might be considered. But this isn’t even remotely a bill that is intended to cut the budget. It is intended to increase it. Paul Ryan’s defense of cutting out retirees is telling:

Ryan defended the provision on Saturday as a modest reform that’s part of a broader plan to save the military from devastating cuts.

“We give them a slightly smaller adjustment for inflation because they’re still in their working years and in most cases earning another paycheck,” Ryan said. “Our goal here is to make sure that no other country comes close to matching the U.S. military, and the stress on the budget in the future brings that whole entire notion into question. We still have a Pentagon budget that is not where it needs to be.”

Under the 2011 Budget Control Act, about $1 trillion was cut from the defense budget over 10 years–roughly $500 billion by the law’s spending caps and another $500 billion through automatic sequestration cuts, which exempted personnel. The Ryan-Murray deal relieves $31.5 billion in sequestration cuts to defense over the next two years. “From my conversation with just Chuck Hagel and General Dempsey recently, the biggest relief this gets is military readiness,” Ryan said. “The statistics are very, very concerning about our readiness.”

I can’t disagree with this strongly enough. The original sequestration had wonderful priorities in exempting personnel. Ryan is sacrificing those who have already served for the sake of more war power abroad. We already have a military that spends as much as the next ten nations combined. Why take away from military retirees (some of whom are completely dependent on that income exclusively) to feed an institution that loses trillions of dollars and can’t pass an audit?

Look at the chart below and tell me that this means we have to cut a percentage point from the cost of living increases of military retirees.