Saturday, January 07, 2012

Military Spending Plans

Obama is talking about cutting military spending by $487 billion over the next ten years, and making vague references to a further $500 billion in addition to that. Republicans are, of course, aghast. I like it, and wish that the cuts went far deeper.

One problem is that Obama, like all politicians, has a different definition of “cuts” than you and I do. We think of cutting our budget and it means we buy fewer hamburgers, or we don’t buy that television we wanted. Politicians think of cutting a budget and they spend more next year than they did this year, but instead of increasing their spending by $15 million, they increase it by a mere $10 million. That’s a “budget cut” of $5 million.

The other problem is that each session of Congress is independent; the 112th Congress cannot tell the 113th Congress what to do, and that matters in a number of important ways. For one thing, it means that multi-year budgets are completely bogus.

So the devil is in the details, and we don’t have any yet. If his cuts are $487 billion, but only $4 billion of it is next year, and that $4 billion turns out to be merely a reduction from a $14 billion increase to a $10 billion increase then he hasn’t really done much for us. Don’t be taken by the ten-year planning numbers. We need to know from Obama what his spending plans are for the remainder of his time in office; anything that he says about military spending for the year 2020 is utterly meaningless.

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