Republicans have decided the way to avoid potentially painful military spending cuts is to reduce dollars going to programs that protect, feed and keep healthy our nation’s poorest citizens.
Like Republicans, Democrats are not happy about a $55 billion automatic reduction in defense spending that was triggered when the bipartisan super-committee failed to reach a deal on the deficit. That cut is the first step in a 10-year program to trim a half-billion dollars from the Pentagon’s budget.
Democrats oppose the social safety net reductions, suggesting tax increases an alternative. Tax increases are a non-starter for Republicans.
Caught in this tug-of-war are places like Calhoun County, which has an economy largely dependant on defense spending as well as a population with persistent poverty.
The Anniston Army Depot and other defense-related companies are among the top employers in the county. Though it can’t be said with great precision, any cutback in military spending will eventually be felt here. Already, the depot’s workforce, which has been as high as 7,000, is declining. Of course, thousands of other businesses in northeast Alabama depend on a thriving depot workforce.
One-in-five Calhoun County residents live in poverty. They are the ones who will feel the pain most directly if Republicans succeed in cutting Medicaid, food stamps, a school lunch program and other safety-net programs.
This guns vs. butter argument is flawed. Washington’s leaders owe the nation a better discussion recognizing the United States was doing better when it provided guns and butter.