Monday, February 04, 2013

Cut cut cut, cut cut Defense

Before the super-bowl yesterday we had the Sunday morning ho-bowl, where Leon Panetta once again proved himself to be a gamer:

“If Congress stands back and allows sequester to take place, I think it would really be a shameful and irresponsible act... why in God’s name would members of Congress elected by the American people take a step that would badly damage our national defense, but more importantly undermine the support for our men and women in uniform?”

Oh, Leon.

First of all, the planned sequester doesn't cut defense. That's right people, defense spending will still go up even if the sequester takes place. In inflation adjusted terms, it will probably stay roughly constant (unless we get that hyper-inflation the WSJ editorial page has been predicting for the last 4 years).

Second, real defense spending is very very high from an historical perspective, thanks mostly to that very very bad commander in chief GW Bush. See for yourselves:

(clic the pic for an even more well defended image (hat tip to Gerardo))

In real terms, defense spending is higher now than during the Korean War or the Cold War!

Finally, defense is a public good. It is non-rivalrous in consumption. We don't need to add another soldier or bomb or drone for every additional 1000 people that live in the country. Our nukes give us the same amount of protection whether there's a 100,000,000 or 500,000,000 of us.

There just is no logic behind the presumption that defense spending always and everywhere must rise. In fact, we could actually take a "savage" cut out of defense and still be a very well defended country. I base this statement on the fact that the US defense budget makes up over 40% of total global military spending.


Gerardo said...

Click for an even more defensive image.

Unknown said...

There's something special about seeing the word "cut" in the title of a post on a blog that features the word "cheese". Point bolstered by Mungo's horse name post above.

KPC: keepin' it classy all up in this joint.

James said...

I didn't see the whole text of Sec Panetta's remarks but I completely agree with the notion that the sequester is a bad idea. I am all for defense spending cuts - but not by the mechanism of sequester. Targeted cuts make sense - loping off X amount from every account doesn't because the military is build around balancing the force.

Thus defense cuts are probably good, but doing it via sequester is probably bad. I think this distinction is lost, but I could be misreading you.

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