Where Deval and Barney Differ: Military Cuts

Patrick may want to appoint a Senator who fights for the state's military dollars.

Barney Frank might be a liberal’s dream, so why does Gov. Deval Patrick seem so lukewarm on the idea of appointing him as the state’s interim U.S. Senator? A few days ago, in response to Frank’s characteristically Barney Frank-ish campaign for the seat, Doug Rubin, a top Patrick political advisor, tweeted, “I respect Cong. Frank and what he has accomplished, but there are better options for MA Senate interim appointment.” He elaborated to the Globe, “If we get beyond the traditional names, there are a lot of smart, talented individuals from Massachusetts who could bring some fresh ideas and energy to Washington, and that’s what we sorely need.” In other words, prepare yourself for a very un-sexy selection.

Frank certainly knows the issues better than just about anyone else on the planet (and he’d probably tell you that, too). But the truth is, Patrick’s priorities differ from the recently retired congressman’s. Patrick’s priorities also differ from his political ally and friend President Barack Obama. Local political consultant David Guarino put it pretty well when he was quoted in the Guardian yesterday. “The governor’s not going to want to hurt his friend, the president, but at the same time, he’s got to think [about issues] that will affect Massachusetts,” Guarino said, pointing out that military funding and possible sequester cuts will be big issues the new Senate is grappling with.

And there’s a potential rub with Barney Frank. He’s long campaigned for military spending cuts. In fact, in a brand new, just released issue of the journal Democracy, Frank wrote an essay headlined, “The New Mandate on Defense” about how liberals should advocate for even bigger defense cuts than Obama is currently proposing. Frank says:

Deficit reduction over the long term must include significant reductions in military spending along with tax increases on the very wealthy if we are to avoid devastating virtually everything we do to promote the quality of life at home. A realistic reassessment of our true national security needs would mean a military budget significantly lower not only than the one President Obama inherited, but that which he now proposes…Additionally, we can reduce the base budget by approximately $1 trillion over a ten-year period (this includes the $487 billion reduction that President Obama proposed in early 2012) while maintaining more than enough military strength to fully protect our security and those of our allies that genuinely need help because they are too poor and weak in the face of powerful enemies.”

While that may very well be sound policy for the nation, it could also cost Massachusetts jobs and money. As Patrick Doyle points out in our January issue, the state relies heavily on military dollars. Doyle writes:

[Lieutenant Governor Tim] Murray made the politically wise decision last February to chair the newly created Military Asset & Security Strategy Task Force, a group set up to make sure that federal dollars—lots of them—keep flowing to military bases in Massachusetts. The Department of Defense hands out an enormous amount of money each year to academic institutions and defense contractors, and Massachusetts, which has plenty of both, is one of the chief beneficiaries. A study by the UMass Donahue Institute put the economic impact of our military bases at $14.2 billion in 2011, including 31,900 jobs, while a separate study found that the defense-contracting industry accounts for $13.9 billion in funding and more than 130,000 jobs.

So, on the one hand, you have Barney Frank advocating military cuts. On the other hand, you have Patrick and Murrray, who will want Kerry’s interim replacement to fight tooth and nail for every last dollar of military funding for the state. It’s possible that Patrick could surprise us all and pick Frank for the role, but, at this point, we’d be surprised.