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February 26, 2011
How much are we spending on defense?
In response to my article titled Party of Big Government, Zbigniew Mazurak posted a response in which he stated that my piece "contains so many factual errors that this rebuttal is necessary."
Mazurak's first point is that my claim that the military constitutes the largest item is "patently false."
He counters that this is not so because entitlements are a much larger item. But to treat entitlements as one budget item will simply not do.
Entitlements -- as they are referred to in common political discourse -- are made up of three different programs each administered by a different bureaucracy and each with its distinct mandate. They include Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.
To lump them together and then treat them as if they were a single item is just plain silly.
Defense spending is, in fact, the largest item in the budget. One of the best places you can see this is on the website called usgovernmentspending.com. It is an excellent resource maintained by Christopher Chantrill.
If you click here you will get a table whose first column gives budget of the federal government for this fiscal year which will finish on September 30.
You will see that the total budget will be around $3.8 trillion. Of this amount defense spending will come to roughly $964 billion.
If you click here you will get these data in a bar chart and you will see that defense spending towers over everything else.
Good as this chart it it is not ideal ideal our purposes, because it lumps certain items together. For example, the item pensions contains payments from more than one program.
Defense spending includes items such Department of Defense at $739 billion, veterans at $141 billion and few smaller items.
Nevertheless the bar chart gives a good idea of how defense spending exceeds any other item in the federal budget.
Mr. Mazurak's rebuttal contains a number of other errors and misrepresentation, to which I do not have the time to respond at this time. Anyone who is interested can do his own research.
Mr. Mazurak has one point, however. In the article I stated that the cost of the Afghan war will exceed the one trillion mark. I should have said that this figure refers to the costs of both Iraq and Afghan operations.
This figure, however, includes only direct costs. The hidden and long-term costs are much higher. Nobel Prize winning economist Josepth Stiglitz, for example, has estimated that the true costs of the war are in the $4-5 trillion range.
One closing point: The point of my article was not that the military should be the only item that needs cuts. I stated that if we have any chance of averting the fiscal Armageddon that is coming our way, deep cuts would have to be made in every area of the federal budget including the military. That is simply the harsh reality we are facing today.