Rarely if ever have I seen David Brooks nail an issue as much as he did on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary.
Because Obama and Democrats refuse to address the escalating cost of entitlements, we are positioned for a choice between guns and butter necessitated not by political considerations or philosophy, but by economics. Obama is all on board for the choice to be butter (Medicare and Obamacare), and needs a Republican to be the person to manage the decline of our military.
… In a democracy, voters get what they want, so the line tracing federal health care spending looks like the slope of a jet taking off from LaGuardia. Medicare spending is set to nearly double over the next decade. This is the crucial element driving all federal spending over the next few decades and pushing federal debt to about 250 percent of G.D.P. in 30 years.
There are no conceivable tax increases that can keep up with this spending rise…. As a result, health care spending, which people really appreciate, is squeezing out all other spending, which they value far less….
Advocates for children, education and the poor don’t even try to defend their programs by lobbying for cutbacks in Medicare. They know that given the choice, voters and politicians care more about middle-class seniors than about poor children.
So far, defense budgets have not been squeezed by the Medicare vice [sic]. But that is about to change. Oswald Spengler didn’t get much right, but he was certainly correct when he told European leaders that they could either be global military powers or pay for their welfare states, but they couldn’t do both.
Europeans, who are ahead of us in confronting that decision, have chosen welfare over global power…. As the federal government becomes a health care state, there will have to be a generation of defense cuts that overwhelm anything in recent history…
Chuck Hagel has been nominated to supervise the beginning of this generation-long process of defense cutbacks. If a Democratic president is going to slash defense, he probably wants a Republican at the Pentagon to give him political cover, and he probably wants a decorated war hero to boot.
And as Brett Stephens shows in a column in The Wall Street, Hagel has a history of going with the conventional and wrong wisdom:
In each case, Mr. Hagel was articulating a view that was exactly in keeping with received Beltway wisdom. In each case, he was subsequently disproved by events. In no case was Mr. Hagel ever held to any kind of account for being wrong. In no case did he hold himself to account for being wrong.
Hagel sounds like just the guy for the job. A Republican who loves to butt heads with Republicans.