Ron Paul’s lies about defense spending

In a propaganda video released on February 20th, Rep. Ron Paul has stated a lot of blatant lies. Paul has falsely claimed, inter alia, that:

“The facts are that the President’s budget calls for an 18 percent increase versus the previously planned 20 percent increase.  This is not a cut. Yet Pentagon hawks continue to issue dire warnings that this draconian decrease in proposed future spending will seriously threaten our national security.”

No, Congressman, these are not facts, these are your false claims. Here are the real facts.

Firstly, Obama’s FY2013 defense budget DOES NOT represent an 18% increase of defense spending, or any increase whatsoever. Your claim is a blatant lie. Obama’s DOD budget request would, if approved, reduce core defense spending from $531 bn to $525 bn – by $6 bn – and OCO  (GWOT) spending by $27 bn (from $115 bn to $88 bn), thus reducing the total DOD budget by $32 bn in a timespan of just one year. These would be real term spending cuts, not merely reductions to the rate of growth. Further cuts would follow in later years. The Hill magazine confirms this, saying that the President’s budget:

“cuts America’s military budget in absolute terms for the first time in more than a decade. The cuts come from both war spending and the department’s base budget and include a reduction in armed forces and the cancelation of several weapons programs.

The 2013 total defense budget is $614 billion, which includes $525 billion for the base budget and $88 billion in overseas contingency operations (OCO) funding. Together, that’s a reduction of $32 billion from the 2012 budget: $5 billion from the base and $27 billion from war spending with the end of theIraqwar and drawdown in Afghanistan.”

Any claim that this is a DOD budget increase, let alone one by 18%, is a blatant lie that is way off the mark.

According to the Examiner’s Joe Newby:

“Paul, however, decried the spending, saying that much of what is allocated goes to help defend other countries, who he says should defend themselves.”

Paul lied when he claimed most of US defense spending goes to protecting foreign countries rather than the US. The vast majority of the defense budget (except a few billion dollars in assistance programs to foreign militaries) is spent on salarying, feeding, housing, training, and caring for the troops as well as developing, buying, and maintaining their equipment and maintaining the facilities where they serve. All of this would have to be spent even theUSwere to defend only itself and dump all of its allies as Paul wants to (a foolish policy, but that’s irrelevant in this argument). In other words, even if theUSwere to defend only itself, and none of its allies, it would still need to spend as much on defense as it does now.

Paul then asked a straw man question:

“Is there any amount of money that would satisfy the hawks and neo-conservatives?”

Yes, there is: the amount of money appropriated in FY2010 and FY2011. These amounts of funding were fully sufficient (even if their specific configuration was too much in favor of irregular warfare capabilities and too neglectful of conventional warfare). So yes, there is an amount of money that would satisfy us defense conservatives. And those who oppose defense cuts are not only hawks and neoconservatives, but also many genuinely concerned Americans who do not want the military to be weakened, which it will be if Obama’s defense cuts go through.

The question that should be asked is not “how much is enough for defense conservatism”, but “is there any extent of defense cuts that Ron Paul and his minions deem too deep?” And the answer to that question is probably “no”.

Paul lied that “Even adjusted for inflation, military spending is 17 percent higher now than when Obama took office”, but defense spending has grown only by %, from $ BN in FY2009 to $531 bn today. Total military spending has also declined, from $664 bn in FY2010 to $645 bn today and is scheduled to go down in FY2013 (to $614 bn) and every year thereafter.

Paul has also falsely claimed that “conservatives sound like liberals on defense spending”, thus repeating a lie that he and his official blogger Jack Hunter often repeat: that defense spending is a Big Government program and that by defending it, conservatives/Republicans behave like liberals. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As explained in detail here, here, and here, defense is not only not a Big Government program, it is a Constitutionally legitimate government function and indeed the highest Constitutional DUTY of the federal government. Many things the federal government does are unconstitutional, but it does have several legitimate functions and even a few Constitutional duties, and the highest of them is defense. Yet, for Ron Paul, the federal government has no legitimate functions (let alone duties), not even defense. This reveals the difference between us conservatives and libertarians like Paul: we believe in LIMITED GOVERNMENT, not no government at all, unlike Paul. For a guy who claims to be, and is considered by some others, “an expert on the Constitution”, Paul is terribly ignorant about this document.

Furthermore, supporting robust funding for defense is, like obeying the Constitution, an integral, irremovable part of conservative philosophy. Anyone who supports defense cuts – let alone ones as deep as those that Paul advocates – is NOT a conservative. Paul clearly doesn’t understand what conservatism is and who a conservative is.

Paul’s claims are all blatant lies, and his question is a straw man query.

Doug Bandow and the ultraliberal “Center for American Progress” (which is funded by George Soros) have also been caught lying. In his pathetically weak defense of Obama’s defense cuts, Bandow, approvingly cited by Paul, falsely claims that:

“While the world is dangerous, it is not particularly dangerous to America. The U.S. is surrounded by oceans east and west and friendly neighbors north and south. America is allied with every major industrialized state save Russia and China.Washingtonalready has a thousand military installations around the world. The American navy is equivalent to that of next 13 navies combined, 11 of which belong to U.S. allies.”

Firstly, the world IS very dangerous for America. Russia and China are America’s enemies, and so are North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela. America’s allies are all miilitarily weak, so the US cannot rely on them, only on itself. There are several Communist dictatorships in Latin America – right in America’s backyard – and regarding geographically distant enemies like North Korea, it is dangerously naïve and ridiculous to assume that they aren’t a threat to the US. Bandow’s fantasy that the oceans can protect the US and that Americacan hide behind them is not only false and dangerous, it is outdated by centuries. Already in 1788, when the Constitution was undergoing ratification, Alexander Hamilton warned that oceans could no longer protect the US and therefore a strong defense was needed:

“Though a wide ocean separates the United States from Europe, yet there are various considerations that warn us against an excess of confidence or security. On one side of us, and stretching far into our rear, are growing settlements subject to the dominion of Britain. On the other side, and extending to meet the British settlements, are colonies and establishments subject to the dominion of Spain. This situation and the vicinity of the West India Islands, belonging to these two powers create between them, in respect to their American possessions and in relation to us, a common interest. The savage tribes on our Western frontier ought to be regarded as our natural enemies, their natural allies, because they have most to fear from us, and most to hope from them. The improvements in the art of navigation have, as to the facility of communication, rendered distant nations, in a great measure, neighbors. Britain and Spain are among the principal maritime powers of Europe. A future concert of views between these nations ought not to be regarded as improbable. The increasing remoteness of consanguinity is every day diminishing the force of the family compact between France and Spain. And politicians have ever with great reason considered the ties of blood as feeble and precarious links of political connection. These circumstances combined, admonish us not to be too sanguine in considering ourselves as entirely out of the reach of danger.”

The claim that the US has a thousand military installations around the world, often repeated by Ron Paul, is a blatant lie (and has earned Paul three Pinnochios from WaPo’s Fact Checker). As fact-checked by Glenn Kessler, it is a blatant lie: the US actually has only 750 military installations abroad, and the vast majority (549) of them are tiny installations like waste dumps; moreover, many of them are counted more than once. Only a few dozen of them are large bases like Spangdahlem and Kadena.

The claim that the USN is the equivalent of the next 13 navies combined, probably borrowed from Bob Gates, is also a blatant lie. 20% of the USN’s warships and 50% of its aircraft are unfit for duty. Many USN ships have cracks or other damage in their hulls, usually resulting from years of extensive use. The USN’s ship fleet is already smaller than China’s, and is on track to get even smaller with its inadequate ship orders. Moreover, distant, but hostile countries are threats to the US. For example, Russia, China and North Korea all have ICBMs capable of hitting the US, and Iran is developing them. Iran is also building bases in Venezuela, from where its IRBMs could reach the US. The claim that there are no serious threats to the US is a blatant lie and a dangerous fantasy designed to lull Americans into a false sense of security and to justify unjustifiable defense cuts.

The CAP falsely claims that:

“The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2013 defense budget halts the unrestrained growth in baseline military spending that has occurred over the last decade, essentially holding the budget steady in inflation-adjusted terms through FY 2017. But it does little to bring the baseline budget back down from its current level, which remains near historic highs.

If passed by Congress, the proposal would authorize $525.4 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget for the fiscal year beginning in October, a $5.2 billion or 1 percent reduction from this year’s spending level. The proposed budget recognizes that we can no longer afford the runaway growth in defense spending that has occurred since 1998.”

All of the CAP’s claims are blatant lies. Firstly, defense spending is not at, or near, historic highs. It is actually at a historic low by almost all measures. As a percentage of GDP, it’s at its lowest ebb since FY1948 (excluding the late 1990s), when it was at 3.50% of GDP; now it amounts to 3.59%. As a percentage of the total federal budget, defense spending accounts for 14% and total military spending for 19%, again, the lowest shares of the TFB since FY1948 excluding the late 1990s (and only if you count total military spending; if you count only the core defense budget, this exclusion doesn’t apply). Per capita, even total military spending (not to mention core defense spending) is at a historic low and much lower than it was during the Cold War. Reagan’s FY1987 defense budget, $606 bn, amounted to $2,443 per capita (the population of the US as of the 1990 census was 248 million people). The current (FY2012) DOD budget ($644 bn) amounts to just $2,090 per capita (308 mn people), while core defense spending amounts to $1,724 per capita. The FY2010 total DOD budget, $664 bn, amounted to $2,213 per capita.

Secondly, defense spending has NEVER seen “unrestrained growth” or “runaway growth” – not during the last decade, not during the last 14 years, not ever. It has always been to a certain limit and, during the Bush years, never exceeded 4.6% of GDP (while core defense spending barely hit 4.0% of GDP in FY2004 and shrank thereafter). From FY1998 to FY2001, the defense budget was flat in real terms, as a share of the federal budget, as a global share, and as a percentage of GDP. From FY2001 to FY2011, IN REAL TERMS, the core defense budget grew by only 40%, while the total military budget grew by only 89%. In any case, if the CAP means the CORE defense budget by “baseline military spending”, it grew only by 40% from FY2001 to FY2011 – throughout an entire decade!

The claim that Obama’s defense budget plans will only keep defense budgets flat from now until FY2017 is also a blatant lie. The FY2012 DOD budget (both the core defense budget and OCO funding) was smaller in real terms than the FY2011 budget, and the FY2013 DOD budget, as noted above, represents a cut of $32 bn, and the core defense budget will be cut further after FY2013 and will not return to its FY2011 level, in real terms, until FY2019.

So all claims about defense spending by Ron Paul, Doug Bandow, and the CAP are blatant lies. No wonder why the CAP is now under scrutiny.


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