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Monday, April 11, 2011

The Paul Ryan Pamphlet Part 2 - Defense

April 11th, 2011
by F. Grey Parker

© copyright 2011 S. Harris
Having examined Rep Paul Ryan's (R-WIPath To Poverty in some detail, it's been frustrating watching so many rightist partisans and pundits respond by lavishing praise upon its "seriousness." My first critique, focusing on the tax implications alone, argued that it is largely removed from economic science as we know it.

It was satisfying to see Paul Krugman say much the same thing and for the same reasons a few of days later. He does, after all, have a little more experience reading budgets than I do.

"They should have waited until people who know how to read budget numbers had a chance to study the proposal. For the G.O.P. plan turns out not to be serious at all."

Today, let's look at the plan's defense numbers. It's not just professional economists and liberals who have expressed disdain on this point. Dedicated Libertarians are appalled. This is the one political party in America which consistently argues against taxation for almost any purpose except the maintanence of a satisfactory defense.

From the Party of Principle national website:

"Another unfortunate but predictable thing about Paul Ryan's budget is that it continues to mollycoddle the Pentagon. Paul Ryan is the Military-Industrial Complex's best friend. He apparently can't find one penny to cut from Obama's bloated levels of military spending. Only a big-government Republican could come up with language like 'reinvesting $100 billion in higher military priorities."

For goodness sake, even Glenn Beck chastised Rep. Ryan with regard to the DoD numbers. You can't make that up.

From page 23 of the Ryan plan:
"Prioritizing National Security: Reflects $178 billion in savings identified by Defense Secretary Robert 
Gates, reinvesting $100 billion in higher military priorities and dedicating the rest to deficit reduction."

That is a total projected spending reduction of $78 billion over 10 years or just under $8 billion a year. This is less than a third of what the Republicans have cut from social programs in next year's budget alone. I find this patently amoral. The explanation offered for the Pentagon's largely untouched expenditures reads like it was inserted by a weapons contractor.

From page 12 of the "Choice of Two Futures" section:

" is important to put that number into perspective. Defense spending as a share of the budget has fallen from around 25 percent thirty years ago to around 20 percent today. Like all categories of government spending, defense spending should be executed with greater efficiency and accountability. But responsible budgeting must never lose sight of the fact that the first responsibility of the federal government is to provide for the defense of the nation."

First of all, this requires acceptance of a very different definition of the word "defense" than our founders ever had in mind. Defense of the nation and trillions of dollars spent on weapons systems to use in international police actions are not the same thing. In a document poured full of partisan bromides, to frame the issues plaguing military spending as merely structural is pathological. Second of all, the figures quoted represent an outright falsehood.

The chart from the Ryan plan

This is the official version. But Iraq and Afghanistan expenses are still off book. What's more, in Ryan's presentation the Pentagon is the only department for which he omits not only interest directly incurred by its activities but also peripheral spending required on the part of other departments due to both congressional and executive mandates. These are expenses which are not counted among the other department's reported budgets because of the predicate for their outlays. In Rep. Ryan's "serious" proposal, they remain magic monies that fall from the sky in La-La Land.

Source The Beacon of the Independent Institute

The Ryan plan would still leave us spending more than 50% of all military dollars in the world per year.

The annual Global Issues report restricts itself to official U.S. budget pronouncements. Add the differential shown above to their chart below and we provably spend more military dollars than all other nations combined.

Ryan's archly trickle-down pamphlet makes dozens of partisan attacks on essentials. It makes its case for slashing Medicare by grouping it under the heading of "welfare." And yet, he and his co-authors can find no way to cut military spending more substantially than roughly $7.8 billion a year over the next 10 years.

It's nonsense. And it's offensive. And I can do better. I, personally, can achieve approximately $400 billion in DoD cuts over the next 2 to 4 years by eliminating one program alone. I have politicked for this cut before. It's called the F-35 fighter program.

But let's all ignore me and continue to parse the generalities of Dr. Serious and his oh-so-serious "Plan" of fiscal seriousness. Why get distracted by a $400 billion dollar scheme to replace the perfectly good and not obsolete F-22 Raptor that continues to out-fly, out-gun and out-maneuver its replacement.

Some things simply have to be held as sacrosanct. Like totally cool planes. And quite unlike the health and welfare of most of the citizens who do the living and the working and the dying in America.

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