In an interview with The American Conservative, Grover Norquist lays some hard truths out for the GOP. On defense spending:
TAC: Grover, you are famous for saying that the U.S. government does not have a revenue problem but a spending problem. Sequester aside, how would you recommend the next Congress and President address pork at the Pentagon?
GN: Conservatives should insist that defense spending be examined with the same seriousness that we demand in examining the books of those government agencies that spend taxpayer money in the name of welfare, the environment, or education. We laugh at liberals who declare that their favorite spending programs should be exempt because the spending is for a noble cause.
A Spanish socialist once declaimed: Spending too much money is not left wing—it is stupid. Ditto wasteful spending in zones conservatives tend to favor because they are actually mentioned in the Constitution.
Spending should be transparent. All spending by the Pentagon should be online. Every check. Exceptions should be made for legitimate national security issues. But military and civilian pay and retirement benefits are not state secrets. This has already been done in many state governments.
The private sector has moved most of their pensions from defined benefit to defined contribution. Utah just passed a law that beginning in July 2012 all new hires by state or local government will have a 401(k) defined contribution pension. There will be no new unfunded liabilities. The Pentagon should make the DC reform that the private sector did in the 1980s, civilian federal workers began making in the 1990s, and state and local governments are doing now. Why be last?
The conversation moves to the costs of war.
TAC: What lessons do you think Americans need to learn from the last 10 years of war including Iraq and Afghanistan?
GN: Ask advocates of the decision to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan after the Baathist and Taliban regimes were overthrown what their goal was. What would define winning or succeeding? How much did it cost? In dollars and in lives. And how much will continuing the occupations cost? When will they end? Someone sure of the virtue of his decisions will welcome answering those basic questions. Those who cannot answer those questions now should have been forced to answer them before lives were spent towards an unarticulated purpose.
Reagan asked in 1980: are you better off than you were four years ago? Are American interests in the world more secure today than before the decision to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan?