Sequester Holds DOD's Fleet to the Fire
For the last few weeks, our military has been navigating a different kind of minefield--the maze of spending cuts set to hit the Pentagon March 1. Wednesday, the Defense Department notified the first wave of targets: the agency's 791,000 civilian employees, who started making plans for periods of unpaid leave. To help meet the $46 billion in first year cuts, non-military workers can expect one day of furlough every week for five months to start paying down the cuts scheduled to kick in next Friday.
In the seven days between now and the deadline, most Americans are trying to make sense of the sequester and what it really means for our troops. There are some people, including the Defense Department's own Secretary, who argue that the cuts will "hollow out" our military. And then there are others, like Mark Levin and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who believe that there are plenty of ways to streamline an agency spending $2 to $3 billion every business day.
Turns out, both groups are right. While the sequester might push the DOD to rein in spending, it does so in a less than prudent way. Instead of approaching these spending cuts with the same precision the military is known for, the bill hits all programs with a 10% across-the-board cut--regardless of how essential they are to national security. And the DOD isn't alone in its forced frugality. Non-defense discretionary spending--like infrastructure and education--will also take an 8% across-the-board punch.
Of course, everyone agrees that this isn't the best way to cut spending, but the sequester was the President's idea. And despite two attempts, he still refuses to consider House bills that would curtail federal spending more carefully. For now, the decision of what to eliminate is still in the hands of out-of-touch bureaucrats--not in the hands of Congress or military leaders who best know what America's priorities are. If the goal is $487 billion in savings over the next 10 years, the DOD should have the discretion they need to make smart, targeted choices. The administration doesn't have to use a meat cleaver on the budget when a scalpel would be more effective--and leave fewer scars.
It's also important to point out that the $487 billion in Defense sequester cuts may not be as painful as some suggest. Most people don't realize that Defense spending increases every year almost automatically. And while this plan does carve away $46 billion in real Pentagon spending this year, the remaining amount isn't really a cut, Forbes explains, but a "modest growth rate reduction" that slows the rise of projected spending over the next nine years.
Conservatives are right to protect our troops, but that shouldn't mean the Pentagon has a blank check to study flying dinosaurs or run a microbrewery. Unlike every other federal agency, the DOD has never undergone a complete audit of its spending--which is the main reason taxpayers are producing military cooking shows and debating naked space travel. Our ignorance of how we spend Defense dollars "undermines our national security," Sen. Coburn explains.
Mark Levin agrees. "The President is not wrong to raise the question of Pentagon 'bloat'... [W]hy shouldn't the Pentagon get a top-to-toe overhaul--or at least a cost-benefit analysis?" Although we all agree that the Defense Department has already been scaled back under President Obama ($407 billion) and was unfairly targeted in the sequester (half of the $1.2 trillion cuts hit the DOD), there are plenty of ways for the military to operate more efficiently. House Republicans passed two bills to give the military the tools it needs to pare back sensibly. The President's party refused to even consider them. Why? Because liberals would rather cut Defense and raise taxes--again.
Mass. Hysteria over School's Drag Policy
If there's one subject giving Massachusetts schools trouble, it's anatomy! The state's Department of Education shocked everyone last week with new directives that completely abolish traditional gender roles, gender-based bathrooms and clothing, and even gender-specific sports in public schools. With 11 pages of rules, the state rolled out the welcome mat to transgender and cross-dressing students--at great expense to their peers and parental rights.
"A student who says she is a girl and wishes to be regarded that way throughout the school day... should be respected and treated like a girl." (Even if that student is actually a boy and just wants easy access to the girls' locker room.) Under these guidelines, teachers are banned from telling moms and dads which gender their child is identifying as at school. "This policy," says Massachusetts Family Policy Council, "allows students to have one gender identity at home and another at school."
Anything short of full acceptance won't be tolerated. A student caught speaking out against the new policy--even if they feel threatened or treated unfairly--will be punished. If, for example, a student refuses to refer to a transgender classmate by their preferred name or sex, it would be "grounds for discipline." Starting this year, even kindergarteners will be targets for indoctrination. Under the new system, boys and girls can no longer line up separately to use the restroom or leave the classroom.
And liberals wonder why more families are pulling their children out of public school! As a father of three girls, I would do everything in my power to keep teenage boys from accessing my children in school locker rooms or restrooms. Inclusivity has its limits--and personal safety should be one of them. If this policy survives, one thing is certain: Massachusetts schools will be a lawsuit-rich environment.
Apart from modesty, some families are fuming about the injustice of it all. One outraged dad, Bill Gillmeister, is angry that the policy gives cross-dressing students an advantage over other kids. "What about the girl who loses a spot on that basketball team because a boy is able to play as a girl?" he asked.
As parents across Massachusetts fume about the new rules, the controversy certainly reinforces an important point: this is the future of same-sex "marriage" in America. It may take teenage boys invading girls' locker rooms to prove it, but redefining marriage is about a lot more than two people who love each other. This is about the fundamental altering of society. Maybe some of you have fallen for the lie that same-sex "marriage" won't affect you. I guarantee that you'll feel differently when you're trying to pull your second grader out of a lesson on homosexuality--and end up in handcuffs instead. Or when your daughter comes home in tears because she's been suspended for telling someone she felt uncomfortable using the bathroom with a male teacher inside. By then, it will be too late.
If you want to protect your children from a fate like Massachusetts's, it starts by defending marriage now. Click over to FRC's marriage clearinghouse and stock up on the materials you need. While you're there, don't miss our documentary, The Problem with Same-sex Marriage--which includes horrifying testimony from parents about the real-life consequences in states that have redefined marriage. Last but not least, plan to join us and thousands of other Americans fighting for the family next month at the national March for Marriage in Washington, D.C.
** Congratulations to our friends at American Family Association and all of you who contributed to the latest pro-family victory at Sears! After a violent "Saturday Night Live" skit that mocked Jesus, AFA and its supporters flooded the SNL advertisers with calls to pull their support. Yesterday, AFA received a statement from Sears thanking them for bringing the matter to their attention. "It wasn't supposed to happen and we're taking steps to make sure it doesn't happen again. Going forward our ads will not run in this form around SNL."
*** Also on Thursday, FRC's Peter Sprigg had a chance to talk to Fox News about the inequity of the military's new same-sex partner benefits policy. To watch his clip, click here.
**** The editorial board at USA Today took a page out of FRC's book yesterday in a compelling new column on the President's universal pre-school idea. Like us, they recognize that the real problem is not a breakdown of education--but families. Check out the piece "Preschool Debate Obscures Core Problem" and FRC's featured comments here.