A few days ago, an article full of factual errors written by Vasko Kohlmayer was published on AT. I wrote a rebuttal on the same day and it was published on AT the next morning.
What did Mr Kohlmayer do? Did he repent and acknowledge his errors? No, he decided to continue posting totally false numbers to.
In his blog post aimed at me, Mr Kohlmayer claims:
“Mazurak’s first point is that my claim that the military constitutes the largest item is “patently false.” He counters that this is not so because entitlements are a much larger item. But to treat entitlements as one budget item will simply not do.
Entitlements — as they are referred to in common political discourse — are made up of three different programs each administered by a different bureaucracy and each with its distinct mandate. They include Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. To lump them together and then treat them as if they were a single item is just plain silly.”
Firstly, it is factually correct to treat entitlement programs as if they were a single item, because they all do exactly the same: tax Americans heavily and transfer money to the same group of people, namely, the entitled class, which, of course, fights tooth and nail to protect its privileges. But even if one treats each of the 3 entitlement programs as separate, defense spending is still not the largest part of the federal budget. The Social Security program is. Its FY2010 cost was $696 bn, larger than the DOD’s entire FY2010 budget ($664 bn). Its FY2011 cost is projected to be $730 bn, far larger than the DOD’s entire FY2011 budget under the ConRes (a $525 bn core defense budget + a $160 bn GWOT supplemental, or $685 bn in total).
Moreover, it is factually incorrect to claim that these three entitlement programs are all administered by separate agencies. The Medicare program and the Medicaid programs are both administered by a single agency – the DHHS (specifically, by its Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). That agency’s budget for FY2010, by its own admission (posted on its website) was over $848 bn, its FY2011 budget is $900 bn, and for FY2012, it has requested $885 bn, according to its website. This Cabinet Department, not the DOD, has the largest budget in the Federal Government.
According to a January 2011 article in the WSJ by Dick Armey and Matthew Kibbe (themselves critics of defense spending), entitlement spending alone constitutes 56% of the total federal budget. Thus, it constitutes the absolute majority.
And regarding their “distinct mandate”, Mr Kohlmayer, entitlement programs have no mandate, because they have no constitutional justification. They are patently unconstitutional.
Kohlmayer also wrongly claimed that:
“Defense spending is, in fact, the largest item in the budget. One of the best places you can see this is on the website called usgovernmentspending.com. It is an excellent resource maintained by Christopher Chantrill. If you click here you will get a table whose first column gives budget of the federal government for this fiscal year which will finish on September 30.
You will see that the total budget will be around $3.8 trillion. Of this amount defense spending will come to roughly $964 billion.
If you click here you will get these data in a bar chart and you will see that defense spending towers over everything else.
Good as this chart is, it is not ideal ideal our purposes, because it lumps certain items together. For example, the item pensions contains payments from more than one program. Defense spending includes items such Department of Defense at $739 billion, veterans at $141 billion and few smaller items.
Nevertheless the bar chart gives a good idea of how defense spending exceeds any other item in the federal budget.”
Again, these claims are false. The usgovernmentspending.com website is an unofficial “source”, and it clearly does not rely on government sources for information, because if it did, it would’ve indicated that, as DOD data shows, the DOD’s total budget for FY2010 was $664 bn, and its budget for FY2011, under the ConRes, is $685 bn ($525 bn + $160 bn), plus ca. $10 bn under the DOE’s defense related programs for FY2010 and for FY2011 each. For FY2012, the DOD has requested $671 bn ($553 bn + 118 bn). Those are three massive numbers to be sure, but not even close to what Mr Kohlmayer and Mr Chantrill claimed, and not the largest item in the federal budget.
The claim that total annual defense spending of the United States is $964 bn is false and downright ludicrous. It is not supported by any data, and neither is the claim that the DOD’s FY2011 budget is $739 bn. Not even the DOD’s harshest enemies claim such a figure (they usually claim $708 bn, which is what the DOD requested, but never received, for FY2011).
Lumping the budget of the DVA (which has nothing to do with military affairs, and whose budget is dedicated to veterans’ pensions and HC programs) together with real military spending is not only factually inaccurate and ludicrous; it means that Chantrill and Kohlmayer have committed the very sin they’ve accused me of committing – lumping different items governed by various agencies together.
Kohlmayer then cited Joseph Stiglitz as a credible source: “This figure, however, includes only direct costs. The hidden and long-term costs are much higher. Nobel Prize winning economist Josepth Stiglitz, for example, has estimated that the true costs of the war are in the $4-5 trillion range.” Stiglitz is a liberal economist heavily biased against Republicans and military spending. I’ve been a reader of AT since 2005, but never did I expect that one day, Stiglitz would be cited as a credible source on this website.
Kohlmayer is also wrong on his final point, namely, that to avoid a financial catastrophe, the Congress will have to deeply reduce every category of spending, including defense spending. This is not true. Even now, despite the economic crisis, the federal government’s annual revenue is over $2 trillion; that is enough to pay for the annual defense budget and even for the GWOT and some other items, if – and that is a big if – the federal government prioritizes defense, its #1 constitutional duty, ahead of everything else. If the federal government had been spending money only on constitutionally-authorized items, there would’ve been no budget deficit. Arbitrary reductions of defense spending would weaken the military and imperil the country.
Mr Kohlmayer’s “rebuttal” is, in short, full of factual errors, just like his original article. This reply’s purpose is to correct the record on the basis of accurate, official data, which is necessary if a healthy, facts-based debate on military spending is to occur.