Rebuttal of the MSNBC’s lies about defense spending

On July 19th, the day the Defense Appropriations Bill was passed, MSNBC did a hatchet job on defense spending during its Morning Joe show (hosted by pseudoconservative liberal saboteur and over Ron Paul supporter Joe Scarborough). The program was, as could be expected of MSNBC (and in particular, of Joe Scarborough), irredeemably biased, utterly ridiculous, and designed to mislead the public about defense spending and the military’s structure.

Joe Scarborough opened the show by claiming that the US spends more its military than the next 16-17 combined. That is false. According to the SIPRI, as of last year, the next 9 countries (China, Russia, France, the UK, Japan, Germany, India, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia) combined spent more than the US if PPP differences are accounted for – and that’s even if one accepts the SIPRI’s woefully understated figures for China and Russia. (The DOD says that China’s 2011 military budget was $186 bn, yet SIPRI falsely claims it was only $143 bn.)

Scarborough further revealed his total ignorance when he falsely claimed that the US military’s structure is still the same as it was in 1947. That is not true. The military’s structure today is totally different than it was back then. At that time, the USAF and the DOD were just being established (in late 1947; the DOD was created under the name ‘National Military Establishment’), the size of the four Services was far larger than it is today (although the military was in a post-WW2 drawdown), there were no ICBMs (or indeed any ballistic missiles) in the military’s inventory (and therefore no SSBNs either), and there were no Combatant Commands – the Service Chiefs were in the chain of command. In fact, the size of the military today is far smaller than it was in 1991, when the Cold War ended.

During the show, the following message was displayed at the bottom of the screen:



Growing military industrial complex? Are they kidding? The US spends only 4.41% of GDP and less than 1/5th of the federal budget on the military. The figures for the base defense budget are just 3.63% of GDP and less than 15% of the TFB. Weapon orders are lower than ever. The military is much smaller than it was at the end of the Cold War. The US nuclear arsenal is the smallest since the Eisenhower era at 5,113 warheads.

And what is the influence of that supposedly hugely influential and growing “military industrial complex” that MSNBC and so many opponents of a strong defense allege exists? It hasn’t stopped the closures of over 50 weapon programs in 2009 and 2010, the ratification of the New START nuclear disarmament treaty, the Gates Efficiencies and Cuts initiative of 2011, or the Budget Control Act, which mandates a $487 bn cut in defense spending starting this October 1st and a sequestration of defense spending to the tune of $600 bn starting on January 2nd.

Where was the big bad Military-Industrial Complex when Gates was killing over 50 weapon programs, when the Senate was ratifying New START in a lameduck session, when Gates was cutting $178 bn in defense expenditures, when Obama was demanding at least $400 bn in further defense cuts, and when the Congress passed the Budget Control Act (with first tier cut and sequestration provisions in it)?

Nowhere, because it doesn’t exist, except in the fantasy world of liberals like MSNBC propagandists.

When President Eisenhower delivered his Farewell Address of 1961, he wasn’t arguing against a large standing military or a large defense budget (and America’s current defense budget is not large). He was merely warning not to give the uniformed military nor the defense industry excessive influence – whether sought or unsought. And context matters. When President Eisenhower delivered his warning, defense spending consumed almost 10% of GDP and more than half of the entire federal budget. Now these figures are much lower.

And what guests did they invite to the show? Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) and Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) – both of whom support deep defense cuts. Barney Frank is a well-known longtime supporter of deep defense cuts, which he regularly votes for, as does Mick Mulvaney, as recorded by the Roll Call Votes cited on this blog on Friday. Moreover, last year, he proposed a $250 bn annual cut in military spending (including a $150 bn cut in the annual base defense budget), and last year, he, along with Reps. Paul and Jones and Sen. Wyden, sponsored a pseudo-non-partisan, overwhelmingly biased, “Sustainable Defense Task Force” which called for deep defense cuts across the board.

During the show, Frank lied again, claiming that the US no longer needs a nuclear triad. The fact is that it does, because it confronts two nuclear-armed peer competitors, Russia and China, both of whom have large nuclear arsenals and nuclear triads of their own. Russia has over 100 Tu-95 and Tu-160 strategic bombers, almost 400 ICBMs, and 14-15 SSBNs, including one capable of launching 20 SLBMs. It also has several times more tactical nuclear weapons than the US does. China has up to 3,000 nuclear warheads according to Professor Philip Karber of Georgetown University, and a nuclear triad consisting of H-6K bombers, DF-5, DF-31, and DF-41 ICBMs, and SSBNs armed with the JL-1 and JL-2 SLBMs (not to mention its numerous IRBMs, MRBMs, and SRBMs). Most of China’s warheads and missile launchers are probably based underground in the 3,000 miles of tunnels that China has built for that purpose.

To protect itself against these threats, America NEEDS a large nuclear deterrent (no smaller than the one it currently has) and a nuclear triad, which offers maximum survivability.

For his part. Rep. Mick Mulvaney falsely claimed that sequestration, if it were to go through, would represent the first round of defense cuts (he presumably meant “first round of defense cuts since 9/11). But that’s a blatant lie, because since 2009, numerous rounds of defense cuts have been implemented, as stated above. But even if he meant “first real-term cuts in defense spending”, i.e. a reduction from the level of defense spending from the past year, that still doesn’t help him: even without sequestration, the defense budget for FY2013 will be SMALLER than the one for FY2012 (i.e. the current fiscal year), which is $531 bn. That is mandated by the first tier of the BCA (which the program’s guests and hosts ignored, probably deliberately). That is the law. By virtue of the first tier of the BCA, the defense budget must get smaller next year, in real terms – and that means tough choices for the DOD. The results of these choices, as mandated by these real-term budget cuts, were announced by the DOD in January: ship and aircraft fleet cuts, personnel number reductions, healthcare and retirement program reforms, efficiencies, etc.

In short, the July 19th Morning Joe program was, as usual, a litany of blatant lies aired by an extremely liberal TV channel. All decent Americans should boycott that channel.


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