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Austerity Has Lost Its Meaning

Austerity Kills
You keep using that word… (flickr)
• February 25, 2014 5:00 am

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Austerity. The media keeps using that word. We do not think it means what they think it means. If it means anything. In America today austerity means whatever liberals want it to mean.

Last week the Washington Post reported that President Obama’s budget request for 2015 "will call for an end to the era of austerity that has dogged much of his presidency." Instead, the Post gleefully explained, the president will focus on "pumping new cash into [programs supported by liberals]," while abandoning his symbolic nod toward reforming the entitlement programs that threaten to bankrupt the country.

In other news, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday announced the Obama administration’s plans to slash the Army to its smallest size since 1940, a famously good year in geopolitical history. The move is perfectly in keeping with the administration's sophisticated foreign policy strategy of thinking about what George W. Bush would do, and then doing the opposite of that. According to the New York Times, the proposal "takes into account the fiscal reality of government austerity."

We’re confused.

But we’re not surprised. The media has had a tenuous grasp of "austerity" for years. First they bemoaned the "austerity" imposed by European countries in the wake of the great recession—typically in the form of major tax increases coupled with moderate spending reductions. These tax-heavy austerity regimens failed, the Thought Leaders declared in 2012, as voters in Greece and France replaced their current leaders with socialist alternatives.

Then too, the Thought Leaders denounced Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R., Wis.) budgets as "European-style austerity" programs, or "austerity on steroids," even though Ryan’s budgets called for taxation levels slightly higher than the historical average, and spending levels that would increase by about 3 percent each year over a decade.

Now that the federal budget deficit is declining, the White House claims that austerity is out of fashion. Except when it comes to the Pentagon, in which case austerity is just another name for crippling the military—together. Meanwhile, entitlement spending continues to grow.

Last year, Hagel was speaking out against significant cuts to the defense budget because such cuts would reduce "the size, readiness and technological superiority of our military" and put our national security at risk. Today, he is simply bowing to "fiscal reality."

Obama may have vowed to end the "era of austerity" when it comes to projects he supports, such as eco-guillotine wind farms. But austerity is a perfectly compelling reason to slash programs he considers financially burdensome, such as the U.S. Army. It’s almost as if Obama would prefer to have a smaller, weaker army, regardless of the economic or budgetary conditions. Who would have thought?

ADDENDUM: It is not yet clear how the administration’s proposed cuts will impact the Washington Free Beacon’s imminent global expansion.

Published under: Federal Budget, Media