Barney Frank: Start deficit reduction with big defense cuts

Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) speaks during a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee July 22, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Getty Images/Alex Wong

As Washington searches for politically feasible ways to bring down its deficits, Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts said Monday morning that lawmakers should start with cuts to defense spending.

Following the battle over raising the nation's debt ceiling, rating agency Standard and Poor's downgraded America's credit because of both deficit problems and apparent political turmoil. On CBS' "The Early Show," Frank said that defense cuts is one proposal for deficit reduction that should get bipartisan support.

He added that defense cuts should come before other spending cuts because it is the "one area in American policy where we are doing things disproportionate to the rest of the world."

"We don't give our older people more medical care, we don't have a better retirement, we don't spend more on the environment," he said. "Where America is disproportionate is our willingness to be the military policemen for the whole world."

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As part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling, Congress must agree to another $1.5 trillion in spending cuts before the end of the year -- either by passing a plan created by a 12-member, bipartisan congressional "super committee," or rejecting it and allowing across-the-board cuts in areas like Medicare and national security. Frank said he's skeptical the "super committee" will agree to much of anything, besides to cut defense spending.

The Democrat said he's going to make defense cuts his "mantra" for the next few months and already has the support of some conservatives, such as Rep. Ron Paul, the Republican presidential candidate known for his libertarian views.

"If we're looking for something that breaks the mold, it's the military spending that is far disproportionate," Frank said. "I want us to be the strongest nation in the world. We could be the strongest nation in the world for $400 billion instead of $700 billion, or $450 billion instead of $700 billion. We could easily save more than $200 billion without in any way endangering our security."

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