Bruce Fein caught lying (or proving that he’s completely ignorant about) defense spending

Ron Paul’s campaign advisor Bruce Fein, an utterly discredited libertarian on Paul’s payroll, has been caught lying about defense spending. Unfortunately, FPI analysts have given only a half-hearted, weak response in the Daily Caller.

For example, they could’ve debunked directly Fein’s ridiculous, and utterly false, claim that America’s military (or national-security-related) budget is $1.2 trillion and that it constitutes 100% of the annual federal budget deficit.

For starters, Fein used the President’s FY2012 BUDGET REQUEST as a source. But it’s not a credible source, because the Congress has rejected it (the House passed its own budget, AKA the Ryan budget, and the Senate rejected Obama’s budget request by a 97-0 vote). As is clear from the bills (incl. Appropriations Bills) passed by both houses of Congress, most if not all federal agencies will have budgets much smaller than those they’ve had during the now-over FY2011 (which ended yesterday). The DOD originally requested (in February) $553 bn (not $558 bn as Fein claims) as a core defense budget plus $118 bn; but the Senate has cut the planned FY2012 core defense budget by $40 bn, down to $513 bn. That’s a total DOD budget of $631 bn.

By using the President’s BUDGET REQUEST, Fein not only LIED, he also proved that he knows absoluytely nothing about military budgets, the total federal budget, or the federal budget process. Anyone who knows at least a little about these subjects knows that 1) it is the CONGRESS, not the PRESIDENT, that produces budgets (and thus sets spending levels); 2) the annual budget that the Congress passes is almost always different (sometimes very different) from what the President requests. The FY2012’s President’s budget request is a good example of that, but there have been many other examples earlier. President Reagan, par exemple,  submitted much larger defense budget requests than the defense budgets the Congress ultimately passed; in other words, the Congress approved much smaller DOD budgets than what Reagan requested. The difference is measured in hunreds of billions of dollars in today’s money. President Bush the elder also lost a lot of money (ca. $53 bn in 2000 dollars) as a result of Congress cutting his defense budget requests and passing DOD budgets much smaller than he requested.

Bruce Fein calls himself a “constitutional lawyer”, but he clearly knows nothing about the US Constitution and has never read it. If he had, he would’ve known that it is the Congress, not the President, that produces budgets (and thus sets spending levels). Art. I, Sec. 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution says: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” But, as the Constitution makes clear, only the Congress can make law. The President can only sign or veto what the Congress sends him.

So the President’s budget request for any year is not a credible source. By using the President’s budget request, Fein has proven himself to be totally ignorant and intellectually lazy.

The only true sources of information are the budgets and Appropriation Bills that the Congress passes. Currently, the law of the land is the CR passed by Congress last month. It authorizes $513 bn + $188 bn for the military, plus ca. $19 bn for nuclear weapons, a total military budget of $650 bn, 50% smaller than what Fein claimed.

The claim that a $631 bn or a $650 bn military budget, which constitutes less than 19% of the entire federal budget and just 4.44% of America’s GDP, is “unaffordable” or “bloated” as Fein called it (using both adjectives) is a blatant lie.

Secondly, Fein wrongly (and deliberately) lumped various unrelated budget items and agencies that he considers “national-security-related” together into a “national security budget”, and conflated it (deliberately) with the MILITARY BUDGET, which is a completely different thing (a mere component of the total sum spent on nat-sec programs). Specifically, he lumped the Pentagon’s budget together with the budgets of the DHS, DOS (including all civilian programs and all Foreign Military Financing and UN programs), the budget of the Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs (which has nothing to do with current members of the military or the DOD), all intelligence agencies (most of which have nothing to do with military affairs and are not constituent parts of the DOD), and various smaller items such as the NNSA (a tiny $19 bn budget request, by Fein’s own admission). He then added the annual interest payments on the debt (which he blamed EXCLUSIVELY on the DOD, even the DOD did not cause any of America’s debt) to it, summed these numbers up, and got an artificially-produced $1.2 trillion figure, which is ridiculous and false.

Fein needs to decide, and publicly state, what is he talking about – the military budget or the broader category of spending on nat-sec-related agencies and programs. His article was supposed to be about the military budget. It’s titled Jamie Weinstein is wrong about defense spending and Ron Paul, and its first paragraph talks about the defense budget, calling it “bloated”.

Counting the budgets of the Department of State, the DHS, the DOJ, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and non-DOD intel agencies as “military spending” is ridiculous and factually wrong. This is not “military spending”.

The DHS, the Department of State, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the DOJ, and most intelligence agencies are not part of the DOD and have nothing to do with the DOD or the military.

As for payments of interest on the debt, the US military did not cause that debt. Entitlement programs did. Entitlement programs constitute 63% of the entire federal budget.

Blaming the DOD for all (or even part) of debt interest payments is ridiculous, wrong, and intellectually dishonest. Remember that even during the 1990s, when the budget was balanced and defense spending was at its lowest ebb since FY1940, there were debt interest payments.

The total annual cost of the US military (including the total DOD budget plus the DOE’s nuclear weapons budget) is just 50% of what Fein claimed.

Thirdly, Fein falsely claimed that the annual federal budget deficit is $1.2 trillion. It is not. It’s $1.5 trillion.

Fourthly, Fein ridiculously claimed that the US can afford to cut its total nat-sec spending (not just the military budget) by a whopping 75% (an arbitrarily chosen figure) down to $300 bn. That’s the maximum he would assign to all nat-sec agencies (not just the DOD). But even assuming that 100% of this money would go to the DOD (which means closing the DOE and the DHS and most intel agencies, as well as closing the entire DOS, including all US Embassies and Consulates), such a defense budget would be DISASTROUSLY inadequate. $300 bn is not enough to defend America, a country with a territory of 9.6 mn sq kms and a population of 308 mn people. I know defense budgets better than Fein, Fly or anyone else here on this website, so I know what I’m talking about. Here are the funding subtotals from the SAC-passed draft FY2012 Defense App. Bill, reported out of committee to the Senate:

As you can see, the costs of Operations and Maintenance alone, a category that funds everything at home from flight training to mowing the grass, is $162.5 bn per year. The cost of military personnel for FY2012 is projected to be – regardless of whether they’ll be staying at home or be deployed abroad – $131 bn. That’s $293.5 bn by itself. That would leave only a tiny, pathetic $6.5 bn for weapon procurement, weapon R&D, health programs, and revolving and management funds combined, FOR ALL SERVICES AND DOD AGENCIES – not enough to equip the Marine Corps, let alone the entire US military. And that is ONLY assuming that 100% of the $300 bn maximum sum that Fein would be willing to spend on the military would be devoted to the military, i.e. assuming complete abolition of the DOE, DHS, and DOS. If one maintains these agencies – and one would have to – the defense budget would be much smaller than the woefully inadequate $300 bn sum, which would possibly leave it smaller than China’s military budget (ca. $150 bn – $185 bn per year, and that’s not even accounting for PPP differences).

The truth is that a $300 “national security budget”, or even a $300 defense budget, would be absolutely inadequate to defend America (even if only America itself). Bruce Fein is either lying or blathering nonsense about issues he knows absolutely nothing whatsoever. Whichever, his credibility is zero. He would be well advised, therefore, never to run his mouth again.

Fein’s $300 bn maximum “national security budget” topline proposal and his proposed 75% cut of “national security spending” are arbitrary figures, taken from thin air. They are not backed by any analysis of the threats facing the US, America’s defense needs, and the cost of maintaining a strong military.

Cutting the defense budget down to $300 bn (or less) would devastate the military and render it completely impotent. That is a fact.

By the way, the Founding Fathers’ creed was “a million dollars for defense, not a cent for ransom”, not “Millions for defense, but not one cent for empire”. The Founding Fathers never said the latter. And George Washington’s creed was actually “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of keeping the peace.” So, by George Washington’s advice, America should be continually preparing for war if it wants peace.

And since Fein and Paul have invoked the Founding Fathers, I’d like to remind them about what the Founding Fathers believed about the issue of providing for the common defense. Like Adam Smith, they (i.e. George Washington, James Madison, John Jay, and others) believed it was the first duty of the federal government. Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers that the military would be the ONLY significant expenditure authorized by the Constitution.

His claim (borrowed directly from Ron Paul) that defense cuts would actually dimish America’s enemies (!) supposedly “precisely because the vast majority of our enemies become such because they resent the U.S. for doing things like propping up foreign despots and using predator drones to indiscriminately kill people in the name of democracy and human rights.”

This is utter garbage. The vast majority of America’s enemies become enemies because of their totalitarian anti-American ideologies, not because of what the US has done in the past. Islamist terrorist organizations hate and fight the US (and many other countries, including Britain, Australia, Israel, and even Indonesia) because of their hateful Islamic ideology (which commands them to wage “jihad”), not because of what these countries have done (what have Australia and Indonesia done to Muslims?). China is a rising superpuissance with global hegemonic ambitions and plans to defeat ANYONE who stands in its way of becoming the world’s hegemon – including the US. Chinese military officers have publicly admitted that this is China’s intent. The KGB, which now rules Russia, has always been hostile to the US, and North Korea won’t become a friend of the US even if the US were to withdraw all of its troops from South Korea and discard its defense commitment to the ROK. Fein’s “Blame America First” claim is a blatant lie. The vast majority of America’s enemies become enemies through no fault of the US. As for drones, they were not used for combat on any significant scale before 9/11.

What did the US do to anger China, Russia, North Korea, or Venezuela? Defend South Korea against NK aggressors? Sell weapons to Taiwan for it to defend itself (as per the recommendation of the CATO Institute)? The US has even capitulated to Russia by cancelling plans for missile defense elements in Europe and throwing its Central European allies under the bus, and yet, Russia is no less hostile to the US than it was earlier.

The US did not order China to start a huge military buildup nor to blackmail its Asian nieghbors. The US has never attacked China, Russia, North Korea, or Venezuela. The US has never used drones against them.

What did the US do to make China, Russia, North Korea, and Venezuela into its enemies?

Fein and Paul live in a fantasy world in which there is no threat except those which America brings upon itself, and no enemies except those that America makes needlessly. Their claim is a blatant lie, just like everything else they write.

Their claim that defense cuts would make America’s enemies weaker is a blatant lie. They would only embolden America’s enemies and encourage them to reach military parity with the US (Russia is already on par).

Their claim that military spending produces enemies is a blatant lie. America’s enemies are its enemies because of their hateful, anti-American, totalitarian ideologies, not because of what America does.

Their claim that the US is using drones to “indiscriminately kill people” is a blatant lie, which suggests that the US is murdering people indiscriminately regardless of civilian status, gender, and age.

The second page of his screed is also utterly ridiculous. For starters, there is no “military-industrial complex” in the US. The US military budget for the current year constitutes a paltry 4.7% of GDP and less than 19% of the total federal budget, and weaponmakers are far down the Fortune 500 list of the biggest American companies (except GE, which earns its revenue mostly on civilian products). Secondly, while Al-Qaeda is not a bigger threat than the USSR or China, it is a direct existential threat to the US nonetheless, as evidenced by its 9/11 attack on the US and its repeated (and, on 12/25/2009 almost successful) attempts to attack the US.

Fein got it right on civil liberties, but these have nothing to do with military spending and have never been violated by the US military. They are being trampled by civilian agencies: the DHS, the DOJ, and the Dept. of the Treasury. The US military is not wiretapping anyone, groping passengers at airports, installing naked body scanners at airports, or enforcing the PATRIOT Act.
His claim that we defense conservatives want to start a war with “Iran, Yemen, North Korea, Syria and possibly China” are ridiculous and utterly false, just like everything else he writes. No one is talking about launching a preemptive war on Yemen, NK, Syria, or China. And personally, I sincerely want to avoid war (including preemptive war) with Iran at all costs.
He also bemoaned the (mistaken and unconstitutional) Obama intervention in Libya, but he neglected to mention who the first President to intervene militarily abroad without Congressional authirzation was. it was none other than Thomas Jefferson, the same Jefferson that Ron Paul claims he admires and obeys. Mr Jefferson intervened militarily in Tripoli (the same Tripoli) to punish Barbary Pirates for assailing American ships. This was the first overseas war won by the US. Mr Jefferson didn’t even bother to ask the Congress for its opinion, let alone for its consent to that intervention.
Finally, there’s his claim that the US is an empire and that Americans must choose between an empire and fiscal solvency. It’s a blatant lie. America is NOT an empire. America is a liberator that liberates oppressed populations and defends countries that are threatened by wannabe aggressors. As General Colin Powell has said, the US has, in its history, conquered just enough land to bury its war dead. An empire does not behave in such a manner.

American soldiers are liberators, not defenders of an empire.

Everyday, Fein should be thanking Bush for liberating Afghanistan and Iraq from the Taleban and Saddam Hussein.
His entire article is a ridiculous garbage piece. He should be ashamed of himself for writing it.

The bottom line is that Ron Paul and Bruce Fein are completely wrong on all counts. Period.

2 thoughts on “Bruce Fein caught lying (or proving that he’s completely ignorant about) defense spending”

  1. Wrong on many counts, but on Jefferson and the Barbary pirates it is absolutely false to say he did not consult Congress. Now YOU are out of your comfort zone. Jefferson instructed the ships he sent to confine themselves to defensive measures only, since offensive measures would require congressional authorization.

    1. You are the one who’s wrong. Mr Jefferson did instruct them to take “defensive measures”, but they DID attack Tripoli and the Marines DID land in Tripoli. Mr Jefferson did that without Congressional authorization. That is a fact. The only wars when the US issued declarations of war were the war of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American war, WW1, and WW2. Even the first and second Gulf War and the Afghan War were authorized by Congress, albeit with an Authorization of Use of Force, not a Declaration of War.

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