Friday, January 20, 2012

"There are Three Kinds of Lies: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics" Romney hits the Trifecta

Abrams M1A1 Main Battle Tank

Mitt Romney has made maintenance of a large military a key component of his platform.  He has criticized Barack Obama for planning to cut a "trillion dollars" from the defense budget.  Of course he never bothers to indicate that this represents ten years of cuts, as it would sound far less dramatic to talk in terms of the annual cuts.  In actuality, the trillion dollars in cuts in defense spending is what may result from the sequester provision of the Budget Control Act, which was passed by Congress back in August to resolve the debt ceiling crisis after the Tea Party Republicans threatened to shut down the government and have it default on its obligations.  The President signed the Budget Control Act into law with a gun held squarely to the country's head by the Tea Party caucus.  (I won't relive the events of August here, other than to say terrorists come in all shapes, sizes and political persuasions, only a few of which can be addressed by Predator drones.)  It wasn't the act of signing the BCA into law that poses a potential problem for defense spending, it was the intransigence of the GOP members on the Super-Committee towards accepting some modest level of tax increases as part of a deficit reduction plan.  When the Super-Committee failed in November, through no fault of the President, the sequestration provisions were triggered.  So Romney's claim that President Obama plans to cut a "trillion dollars from defense spending" is a lie.  And he knows it, and he doesn't care that he lies about it to the American people.

But it gets even better in terms of Romney's mendacity.  He also talks about the one trillion in cuts to defense spending posing a severe threat to the power of the United States to project its military power in the world.  But the sequestration provision doesn't require a set amount of cuts to defense spending.  It requires a set amount of cuts to security spending, which includes the U.S. military, homeland security,  intelligence, nuclear weapons, diplomacy, and foreign aid.  Congress in each budget will be free to carve much of the security spending.from the security programs other than defense.  For example, homeland security has an annual  budget of  almost $100 billion dollars, and has been spending about two-thirds of that amount, so much could be cut there.  We don't need enough nuclear weapons to blow up the planet a dozen times over, so if the opposition of the Tennessee (Oak Ridge Lab) and New Mexico (Sandia Lab) congressional delegations could be blunted, much could be cut from nuclear weapons programs.   Moreover, under the sequestration rules, the spending caps are split equally between "security" and "non-security" discretionary spending only for fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2013.  After that, non-security discretionary spending could always be targeted more heavily. And, of course, a more sane way to balance the budget than sequestration could be pursued, similar to the grand approach the president sought to work out with John Boehner a year ago, before the Tea Partiers balked.  For example, Republicans could agree to raise taxes by a small percentage of reductions in spending.

Don't let anyone tell you Obama has been cutting back on the military.  Here is a Cato Institute graph of U.S. military spending over the last 40 years, shown in constant 2011 dollars:

Back in November I posted about the comparative defense spending of the United States and the next 19 highest spending countries in 2009.  Here is the chart of the spending:

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