Dick Cheney appeared on Fox News's "Hannity" last night to discuss Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's announcement yesterday that he was going to cut the size of the Army and reduce military spending. That didn't go over well with the former vice president, who called the cuts "absolutely devastating" and said that Obama "would rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or in support of our troops."
"I have not been a strong supporter of Barack Obama," he added. "But this really is over the top. It does enormous long-term damage to our military."
Where to begin? Hagel, a Republican, and the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff signed off on the cuts. In fact, military leaders have been saying for months that they need to rein in military personnel costs, which is exactly what Hagel intends to do. The White House also intends to downsize the Army because after we exit Afghanistan later this year, we will no longer be in an armed conflict anywhere in the world. Every time we transition from wartime to peacetime, we have cut the size of the military, as you can see from this graph from the Center for Strategic and International Studies:
But this really gives Cheney too much credit. One reason Hagel has to reduce defense spending is to stick to the budget caps that Republicans demanded as part of the 2011 budget deal. If Cheney is so opposed to the defense caps in it, he should take his complaints to congressional Republicans. They're the ones that put Hagel in this position.
As for Cheney's comment about Obama and food stamps, here's how much the federal government spends on food stamps versus defense:
It's not even close. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office projects that spending on food stamps (known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) will decline over the next 10 years. Those projections don't even include the additional $8.6 billion in SNAP cuts included in the Farm Bill.
This decline in SNAP spending is not Obama's doing. It's the result of an economy returning to normal—and thus, fewer Americans relying on SNAP benefits. But that just goes to show the absurdity of Cheney's argument that Obama loves spending on food stamps. The reason SNAP spending rose so dramatically in Obama's first term was also not his doing. It was the result of a deep financial crisis that left millions in need of help.
Cheney doesn't even have much reason to worry over the decline in defense spending: The CBO projects that after initially falling due to the sequester, it will begin rising again in the latter half of the decade. Will he applaud the next president, even a Democratic one, when that happens?
Danny Vinik is a staff writer at The New Republic.