John Stossel’s snake oil


John Stossel has proposed a plan to balance the federal budget. Too bad it involves reducing military spending by a whopping $150 bn per year.

Stossel blindly endorsed the CATO Institute’s proposed military spending cuts of $150 bn per year and falsely claimed that America’s total military spending is $721 bn per year. Then he claimed “See? Not only have I balanced a budget, I’ve actually devised a budget surplus of $2 bn per year!”

Firstly, America’s military budget is not $721 bn and never was during any fiscal year. The largest military budget America has ever had, the FY2010 budget, totalled $674 bn: $534 as a core defense budget, $130 bn as a GWOT supplemental (i.e. to wage the GWOT, not to maintain America’s defense), and $10 bn for DOE’s defense-related programs (nuclear weapon programs, uranium enrichment facilities decommissioning, naval reactors, the Defense Enviro Cleanup program, etc.).

The FY2011 budget is smaller: $10 bn for DOE’s defense programs, $525 bn as a core defense budget, and less than $130 bn as a GWOT supplemental, a total sum of no more than $665 bn.

America has never had a $721 bn military budget. Not during FY2010. Not this fiscal year. Not ever.

The $721 bn figure is a deliberately produced lie made by the pacifist Antiwar.com website. By blindly accepting it, Stossel has irredeemably discredited himself.

Moreover, Stossel was wrong to blindly accept the proposed defense cuts by the CATO Institute. These proposals are disastrous and wrong for two reasons: Firstly, in large part, they would affect critical categories of military spending such as weapons programs and the force structure. Secondly, when devising them, the CATO Institute ignored the fact that defense is a constitutional DUTY of the federal government, and therefore, its mission is to maintain and build up America’s defense, not weaken it. The CATO Institute’s proposed defense cuts would gravely weaken America’s defense.

Stossel also understated the savings that would result from the closures of unneeded domestic agencies and programs such as the Education Department (the saving would be $122 bn per year, not $94 bn per year), the War on Drugs ($77-80 bn per annum rather than $47 bn per annum), and the DHS ($43.5 bn per annum). Total savings not counted by him in the “surplus” would be $104.5 bn. Add another $43.5 bn resulting from the abolition of all farm subsidies and voila, the budget is balanced (the balance is $0).

Defense spending cuts are neither necessary to balance the budget nor advisable, given that they would weaken America’s defense.

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