Midterm elections are less than two weeks away, but the Sunday political shows were already peeking ahead to the 2016 presidential field.
On ABC’s This Week, host Martha Raddatz asked a panel of pundits and politicians what impact Monica Lewinsky’s recent foray back into the national scene would have on Hillary Clinton’s chances.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican who said he was a teenager when the Lewinsky scandal broke, didn’t bite and instead weighed in on the GOP hopefuls.
"I think on 2016, by the way, I'd love to see Jeb (Bush). I'd love to see Chris Christie. I think Paul Ryan would be a great candidate," Kinzinger said. "The one person I don't want to see is somebody like a Rand Paul who has put out budgets to cut the military in half. I think that would be devastating for our party right now."
That’s a tough critique of Paul by Kinzinger, an Iraq war veteran, but is it accurate?
Rand Paul budget: Version 1.0
In his first year in the Senate in 2011, Paul introduced a proposal that was intended to drastically cut spending to balance the budget by 2016. To do so, Paul took measures to cut entire departments like the Department of Education, turn Medicaid and food stamps into block-grant programs and, yes, include a "draw-down and restructuring of the Department of Defense."
"The resources and funding we provide to our national defense are unprecedented, however," Paul wrote. "Military funding has often far outpaced not only our most likely enemies, but has often outpaced the entire world’s military spending combined."
He went on to say that the "structure of the U.S. military continues to reflect the build up during the Cold War," and proposed scaling back military personnel by not filling vacancies created by turnover, reducing overseas presence, and transition control of Iraq and Afghanistan to local governments.
The end result? Defense outlays would drop from $712 billion in 2011 to $641 billion in 2012 and continue to fall to $548 billion in 2016. Paul accomplishes this largely by cutting overseas operational costs and war spending from $159 billion to nothing by 2016. The rest of the defense budget drops a bit but actually remains relatively flat.
Overall, Paul’s budget represents a reduction in defense spending of about 23 percent compared to 2011 levels. That’s significant, but far from the 50 percent cut Kinzinger claimed.
However, that’s not the only way to look at spending reductions. Department costs typically trend up annually automatically due to inflation, increases in the costs of production, raises, etc.
The Congressional Budget Office, the top fiscal scorekeeper used by lawmakers, projected that defense spending would jump from $712 billion in 2011 to $773 billion by 2016. That’s about $225 billion more than Paul would have spent in 2016. In that sense, Paul reduces annual defense spending by about 30 percent. Still not close to "half."
Paul’s budget went nowhere in the Senate. Only seven Senators voted for it with 90 rejecting it.
Kinzinger’s office told PolitiFact that "a roughly 25 percent cut would reduce capabilities by roughly twice the overall number." Why? Because so much of the defense budget is fixed and can’t be reduced. The part that can be reduced, discretionary defense spending, is therefore taking twice the hit.
Rand Paul budget: Version 2.0
A new budget proposal emerged from Paul in 2013: "A Clear Vision to Revitalize America." It emerged after the widespread budget cuts, known as the sequester, went into place. Those sequester cuts dramatically reduce non-war defense spending significantly during the next decade.
The updated version of Paul’s budget again sought to balance the budget over the next five years. However, defense spending was somewhat spared, at least compared to the first incarnation and compared to the new budget projections post-sequestration.
Under Paul’s budget, defense appropriations would go from $521 billion in 2014 to $634 billion in 2023. The Congressional Budget Office, meanwhile, projected $588 billion in defense appropriations in 2014 to $731 billion in 2023.
So Paul’s final budget actually shows an increase in spending over the CBO’s 2014 projections, though, it’s about $100 billion less than what they project for 2023.
Paul’s office noted, though, that this is because war spending is, again, reduced to zero (on the assumption, at the time, the United States was winding down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- so why include $100 billion annually for war spending?).
The CBO projects that without war spending, the U.S. will spend $497 billion in 2014 and $589 billion in 2021. Paul’s baseline numbers for the defense department are higher than those figures.
Kinzinger claimed that Paul "has put out budgets to cut the military in half."
In 2011, Paul released a budget proposal that reduced annual defense spending quite significantly, but not anywhere near 50 percent. There are different ways to measure the reductions, but they’re in the range of 25 to 30 percent.
Paul later unveiled another budget that actually increased year-over-year defense spending, though it did not keep pace with estimated projections in growth.
Both Paul budgets also eliminated funding in the defense budget for war spending and overseas operations based on the assumption that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were winding down. Lawmakers can argue whether that was prudent, however, it’s important context.
Given all of that, we rate Kinzginger’s statement False.