Odd Couple: Frank And Paul Target Military Spending You might think of liberal Democrat Barney Frank and libertarian Republican Ron Paul as a Congressional odd couple. The unlikely pair want to trim the Pentagon's budget by $1 trillion over the next 10 years, significantly reducing U.S. military presence around the world, including Europe.

Odd Couple: Frank And Paul Target Military Spending

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/128434888/128434883" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

: Congressman Frank, welcome to the program.

BARNEY FRANK: Thank you. I'm glad to have a chance to talk about what's as important an issue as any that confront us.

: Well, maybe you can explain for us exactly what it is that you and Ron Paul are proposing.

FRANK: What we're saying is this hangover from the Cold War, when America was seen as the superpower that had to protect everybody everywhere is outdated. If we do not expect our allies in Europe and Japan to pick up more of their own burden of defense, then you will be cutting domestic programs and promote the quality of life very savagely. You might be increasing taxes to a point where it will be economically unwise.

: So are you saying that we should close some of those military bases that we've had overseas, really, since World War II?

FRANK: So, yeah, I don't see why we need troops in Okinawa, why we need troops in Germany, why we need troops in Italy. And people had said to me, well, know your allies. And that's what you do with allies, you have troops in their country. Well, if that's the case, where are the Belgian troops in Arizona? Where are the French troops in South Dakota?

: But it's true. Don't we get some political and economic favors in return for our military investment overseas? And how...


: No?

FRANK: Today, the Soviet Union has been replaced by a much smaller and weaker Russia with whom we are much friendlier. I'm being very radical. What I said to the Pentagon is, you know these three ways you have of destroying what's now Russia? Why don't you keep two and give up one? And save us tens of billions a year.

: Have you already set up a task force on this?

FRANK: What Ron Paul and I are doing, along with the Republican Walter Jones from North Carolina, Senator Ron Wyden, the Democrat from Oregon, is writing to them and saying, don't just come to us and say we're going to raise taxes and we're going to limit Social Security and cut EPA, et cetera, et cetera. There needs to be proportional reductions in the military budget, which by the way at 700 billion is more than all the domestic programs (unintelligible) Social Security and Medicare put together.

: Now, would you welcome everyone to join in this effort you're making? You know, we've seen the Tea Party movement looking for ways to cut the budget. Would you work with the Tea Party, for instance?

FRANK: Of course, in the first place, with the exception of a few explicit homophobes, I work with anybody and there are always going to be points of common ground. And if we can get together on, you know, cutting out the three ways of destroying the Soviet Union and getting it down to two, then we can continue to provide the kind of benefits we provide Medicare.

: But you're saying you want to save this money so it can be spent on programs that you care about, whereas Ron Paul, I would think, would be saying he wants to save this money so that it's out of the budget completely. How do you resolve those kinds of differences?

FRANK: We both agree that we should free up money by cutting out military expenditures that not only don't support our national security, but in cases like Iraq, make it worse. If we are unable to make those cuts in the military, then we are going to find pressures for taxes higher than Ron wants and for domestic cuts more than I want. And we would like to be able to save that money and then have that second debate.

: Congressman Barney Frank, thanks so much for joining us.

FRANK: You're welcome.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.