Monday, March 5, 2012

Defense Cuts and Hippie-Loving Peaceniks

Mitt Romney in the debates has railed against Obama's supposed plan to cut the military by a trillion dollars over ten years, although he usually leaves off the time frame. Romney's website also highlights the cuts, saying "over the next ten years nearly $1 trillion will be cut from the core defense budget." He warns (or at least his staffers do) that this will lead to disaster-- "A weak America, an America in decline, an America that retreats from its responsibilities, would usher in an era of uncertainty and danger, first for the United States but also for all those everywhere who believe in the cause of freedom." The truth, of course, isn't nearly so bad.

Christopher Preble has an excellent post at CATO@Liberty that gets into some of the real numbers at issue, as well as some of the problems in defining what actually counts as "defense" spending. But most relevant to Romney's position, as well as to everyone who argues against defense cuts, is Preble's fourth and final graph, reproduced below.

Particularly interesting is the dark green line for "sequester cuts." These are the Congressionally-mandated cuts required due to the failure of the deficit Supercommittee. The most drastic cuts even on the table right now, these are the only projections close to cutting $1 trillion over a decade from the core defense budget. Despite Romney's rhetoric, Obama's FY 2013 budget (the pink line) doesn't cut as much as the sequester cuts do--indeed, the pink line projection is barely lower than actual spending has been in the last few years, and could only be considered a "slash" (as Romney's website says) when compared to Obama's own previous projections.

What's really noteworthy, however, is the level of that dark green line. As you may have already noticed in the above graph, there was a period in our nation's history where military spending was at essentially the same level as the dark green line for several years in a row. I speak, of course, of those years of "a weak America, an America in decline, an America that retreats from its responsibilities" under the leadership of that hippie-loving peacenik George W. Bush, from 2003 to 2007. I wonder if Romney realizes that the Pentagon's budget has been higher every year under Barack Obama than it ever was under Bush, or that the "slash" in spending would merely restore the Pentagon's budget to the same level it was at for most of Bush's presidency?

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