Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Anyway you slice it this pie is a lie


When I was a little bit younger, I got taken in by the moveon.org folks. I thought Ben (of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream) made a lot of sense when he talked about Oreo cookie allotments and pie apportionments of government spending. In fact, I had lot's of fun pretending that I had the ability to rightly allocate government budgetary processes with this web app. There's only one problem with this whole scenario: It's misleading from the start and leads to an outright lie about fiscal policy.

The chart claims to show the federal budget, but it only shows discretionary spending. Further, if you look at the report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, you'll see that Medicare and Medicaid combined overtake Defense spending - even during this time of war. Not good enough for you? How about Social Security (which includes welfare)? They spend $47,000,000,000 dollars more than the Department of Defense. Why aren't we calling an end to LBJ's "war on poverty" yet? Oh...I remember... we just haven't thrown enough money at it, yet.

Granted, there's plenty to harp about in terms of uncontrolled spending. However, the less than 20% of budgeting during an active state of military mobilization? That's pretty small. I wish it weren't there, but it isn't cause to go nuts the next time someone tells you that the war is spending us into oblivion. We've got plenty of other programs doing that, tyvm.

4 comments:

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

Awesome post. I have a feeling I have had this conversation before...

Gary said...

But its a fun program. ;) I took defense down to 21% and took transportation up to 19% because I'm sick of the potholes...

Doug Hagler said...

I agree that the war on poverty has failed. Wars tend to do that.

I do think that, internal comparisons aside, the fact that we spend more on "defense" than the next ten highest spenders combined...maybe is worth comment? Not to you, maybe, but to me.

Let's take ending the war on poverty farther, and just end war.

But then, what would we have to comfortably argue about?

Chris said...

Doug,

How many more failed surges does the war on poverty need? We dpn't need another money-giveaway. What is needed is investment in the things that consistently pull people out of poverty. Strong marriages, father-led families, abstinence until marriage, and sound education. The WoP tends to try stop-gap measures, and they only grow the problem.

As for the military budget, it has more than doubled since 2000. That's to be expected. (Take a look at the graphs here showing spikes in spending at all conflict times.) Unfortunately, there was not enough trimming if government waste to handle that.

There's also a lot in that budget for non-soldier activities. For example, $4.4 billion was allotted in 2006 for its expenses to rescue and relieve civilians and to undo damage to DOD contractors from Hurricane Katrina. The military is a huge employer of civilians. Its researchers (again, civilians) churn out stuff that everybody benefits from. (The same was true of the space race - though people said it was a huge waste of cash.)