U.S. SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS
‘WE DON'T HAVE THE MONEY’
Sessions rejects Defense Department cuts;
warns about rising national debt
By David Zaslawsky
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions strongly voiced his opposition to proposed Defense Department cuts and warned about the dire consequences of the rising national debt.
The Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) does not “save near as much money as it was promoted,” Sessions, R-Alabama, said before a Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues event at the RSA Activity Center. “I have to be shown this is the right process.”
He said that BRAC costs money because people are moved; facilities are shut down; and some structures must be built to accommodate the personnel moves to existing sites. “I don’t think it’s a done deal,” Sessions said, referring to the Obama administration’s plan to reduce the size of the military.
Sessions also had some strong words for the proposed cuts to the 908th Reserve Air Wing at Maxwell Air Force Base, which would eliminate all the C-130H cargo planes stationed there and dramatically impact its mission.
“I don’t think the plans that I’ve seen make sense to me and they are going to have to explain that,” Sessions said, although he acknowledged that cuts will be nationwide. “I know we are going to have to reduce costs. You should expect your delegation to make sure that it is a smart move.”
He saved some of his strongest comments for automatic $500 billion in Defense Department cuts over 10 years as part of a $1.2 trillion deficit package that kicks in 2013 because a Congressional super committee failed to reach a budget reduction deal. That amounts to a 20 percent cut in defense spending “while the remaining five-sixths of the United States government would increase 50 percent,” Sessions said.
He pointed out that the Defense Department is already slicing about $490 billion from its budget and an additional $500 billion is too much.
“Our military has served so fabulously,” said Sessions, the ranking member on the Senate budget committee. “They have been deployed, deployed, deployed and risked their lives. And they’ve done it without complaint. Wherever they have been asked to go they have gone. We do not need to dishonor them at this point.”
All things military are of utmost concern to the River Region, where Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Annex have a combined annual economic impact of more than $1.5 billion.
He offered some suggestions to create jobs and prosperity without increasing the national debt:
> Exploit American energy.
> Eliminate regulations “that do not serve a useful purpose.”
> Institute tax reform that “promotes growth and prosperity.”
> Toughen trade policy; in particular, stop China from manipulating its currency, “which makes their goods 25 percent cheaper than they should cost. They are playing us like a fiddle.” He said there is a trade war, “but we’re just not fighting.”
His harshest remarks were about the national debt. “I do criticize the president for not laying out a plan to change the debt course of America because it’s getting worse because of demographics,” Sessions said. “We are an aging society and the situation is not going to get better and we’re not going to get out of it simply by economic growth, although that is important.”
He outlined projected costs of entitlements over the next 75 years and the message was to stop digging when you are in a deep hole. He warned that:
> Social Security will have a $7 trillion unfunded liability.
> Medicaid will have a $3 trillion unfunded liability.
> Medicare will have a $30 trillion unfunded liability.
> The new health care plan will have a $17 trillion unfunded liability.
“We don’t have enough money,” Sessions said and then repeated his statement, but added the word “really.” He said, “Somebody has got to say no. Somebody has to point out that we don’t have the money.” •