Last Sunday, on August 5th, the formerly-conservative Washington Times newspaper published an extremely biased article full of lies and factual errors, written by Guy Taylor (whom I have repeatedly taken to task for his glaring factual errors; one time I even wrote a letter to the WaTimes’ editors protesting against his garbage). In it, Taylor makes a number of false claims and repeats the blatant lies of overtly liberal pseudoanalysts. I will now refute these lies one by one.
1) In response to Mitt Romney’s plan to set a goal for defense spending to be constant at 4% of GDP, Guy Taylor claims that “Some have asserted that neither Mr. Obama nor Mr. Romney has a real plan for reining in runaway defense spending.”
That is a blatant lie. Defense spending is not runaway at all. It is, in fact, at a historic low. The total military budget amounts to just 4.21% of America’s GDP (which is $15.29 trillion according to the CIA World Factbook), not the 4.7% that Taylor claims. The base defense budget amounts to just 3.47% of GDP. Both figures are LOWER than what the US spent on the military throughout the ENTIRE Cold War except FY1948. Even Jimmy Carter spent more on the military – never less than 4.6% of GDP.
Calling defense spending “runaway”, “bloated”, or anything like that is a blatant lie which should disqualify Mr Taylor from working at the Washington Times.
4% of GDP would be LESS than what the US spends on the military (in terms of TOTAL military spending) now. Taylor himself has admitted that in a previous article on Romney’s foreign policy. 4% of America’s GDP ($15.29 trilion) today would be $611 bn, less than the current military budget.
For this meagre percentage to amount to $800 bn in 2016 (as Guy Taylor claims it would), the economy would have to grow at a neckbreaking pace. It won’t happen, even under the most optimistic circumstances.
2) Guy Taylor claims that Barack Obama’s is to slow down defense spending growth while still allowing it to grow to $578 bn in FY2016, and that this would be twice more than the US defense budget in FY2001.
This is also false. Firstly, President Obama’s official plan is to cut defense from $535 bn today to $525 bn in FY2013 and then allow it to grow very slowly. This is to comply with the First Tier of the Budget Control Act. But even under this scenario, defense would still not grow to $578 bn by FY2016, nor would it be even close to twice what it was in FY2001. See the graph below.
In FY2001, the defense budget was $291.1 bn in then-year dollars, i.e. $390 bn in today’s money. To double, it would have to grow to $780 bn. $578 bn is not even close to 2x$780 bn. Taylor evidently can’t do even simple math.
3) Taylor repeats blindly Winslow Wheeler’s false claim that defense spending as a percentage of GDP is “rubber” and a bad measure.
But defense spending as a share of GDP is actually the most reliable measure of military expenditures, because it tells you EXACTLY how much of a burden on the economy the defense budget is. Wheeler and other liberals reject this metric because it doesn’t suit their extremely liberal “let’s gut defense” agenda.
If the defense budget consumes only a small percentage of GDP, such as 3% or 4% or 5%, it is a small burden on the economy. For that reason, the vast majority of non-biased analysts around the world use this metric.
4) Taylor tries to scaremonger the public with false, exaggerated estimates of what Romney’s naval construction program would cost:
“Take the Navy, which plans to build nine ships a year for the next three decades at a cost of at least $20 billion a year, or $599 billion through 2042.
Mr. Romney says he wants to increase that to 15 per year, which, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, would increase the annual budget to $33.5 billion a year, nearly doubling costs over the next 30 years to $1.005 trillion.”
But that is also utter garbage. Mitt Romney has already said that he will pay for that with significant cuts to the DOD’s bureaucracy, including the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA, ex-Bureau of Ships). During the Reagan years, it employed only 4,000 people but built 28 (28!) ships per year. Now it employs 25,000 bureaucrats but is able to build only a meagre 9 ships per year. Moreover, the costs of ship acquisition and development have significantly increased and will have to be reduced. A President Romney would do that. Taylor is simply scaremongering the American people with estimates of gargantuan costs when ships can actually be bought for less than what he claims and paid for with cuts to bureaucracies and contractors.
And Romney’s plan for 15 ships per year was not written in isolation. Two independent panels – the Hadley-Perry Panel and the CNAS – have both concluded that the Navy needs 346 ships to protect America and its interests.
5) Larry Korb of the Soros-funded Center for American Progress falsely claims that:
““What Obama has done is reduce the projected growth in defense spending. It’s not actually a cut,” said Larry Korb, who was an assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan.”
which is also a blatant lie. Barack Obama has actually scheduled REAL cuts of defense spending. Even under the first tier of the BCA, the base defense budget will be cut from $535 bn this FY to $525 bn next year (see above). Deep cuts in the rate of growth have already been made earlier by Secretary Gates.
But under sequestration, which Korb is ignoring, the defense budget would be cut all the way down to $469 bn and remain virtually flat in real terms for the rest of the decade and afterwards. By FY2022 – a full decade from now – it would still be at $493 bn, below $500 bn and well below today’s level. See the graph below.
Concurrently, OCO spending is being cut annually, and as a result, the total military budget is being cut annually. These cuts, taken all together, would amount to a 29% cut and would represent the deepest cuts in military spending since the end of the Korean War.
There is a BIG difference between those times and today, however. When the post-Korea, post-Vietnam, and post-Cold-War defense cuts began (and also when the post-Korea and post-Vietnam cuts ended), defense spending was at a much HIGHER level than it is now. It amounted to 14% of GDP in FY1953, 8.7% of GDP in FY1969, and almost 6% of GDP in FY1989.
In FY1961, it still amounted to almost 10% of GDP, and in FY1979, to 4.6% of GDP. Today, it amounts to just 4.21%. Romney’s proposal is to spend just 4%.
6) Korb also falsely claims that “apart from the first Reagan administration, the Pentagon has historically made out better under Democrats than Republicans in terms of money.”
This is false. Harry Truman badly (and wrongly) cut defense after WW2, leaving America unprepared for the Korean War. The Democrat-controlled Congresses of the 1970s repeatedly cut defense deeply, frustrating Presidents Nixon and Ford and undermining the troops in Vietnam. Jimmy Carter then doubled down on those defense cuts and gutted the military. So did Clinton after the Cold War. As for President Reagan, in real terms, he requested far more defense spending than what the Congress authorized, and throughout his presidency, he constantly sought to increase it. By FY1989, it reached $300 bn in nominal dollars (ca. $580 bn in today’s money) and almost 6% of GDP. As for President Bush the elder, he did cut defense, but Congress forced him to cut far deeper than he wanted to.
That’s because it is the CONGRESS, not the President, who determines defense spending levels. Which means that Mitt Romney’s plans to increase defense spending will go nowhere unless Congress agrees to them (which is unlikely). To do so, Congress would have not only to agree to overturn sequestration, but also to overturn First Tier BCA-mandated defense cuts. This is not going to happen. Only repealing sequestration is realistically possible, and only after the November 2012 elections.
And if sequestration is not cancelled, defense spending will be cut a lot deeper than even President Obama wants it to. It will be cut all the way down to $469 bn and remain virtually flat for the rest of the decade.
7) Korb asks: “And the problem with Romney saying he’s going to increase defense spending is how is he going to do that while also dealing with the deficit?”
But Romney would not actually increase total military spending. 4% of GDP would still be less than what is spent on the military today. He would increase only the base defense budget component, and only to 4% of GDP, which is LESS than today’s DOD budget.
How will he pay for that? By cutting unconstitutional federal spending. The vast majority of what the federal government does and spends is unconstitutional. Defense, OTOH, is the highest Constitutional duty of the federal government. That’s how every prudent budgeteer works: he fully funds his priorities and cuts back on all non-priority programs.
8) Winslow Wheeler falsely claims that “Obama will spend a lot; Romney will spend more. That’s the difference.” But that is false. Obama is actually spending little – 4.21% of GDP in total and just 3.47% as a base defense budget. Romney would spend only slightly more in the base defense budget but less in total, at 4% of GDP.