StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

About That 4% Increase In Military Spending...

13 Apr 2009
Posted by Stan Collender

I know I'm coming a little late to this party, but the topic deserves some additional discussion.

John Stewart was right last week when he asked "On what planet is a 4.1 percent increase a cut?"  If you haven't see the clip elsewhere, see below.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M - Th 11p / 10c
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Economic Crisis Political Humor are the numbers: The DOD budget submitted by the White House to Congress on February 26 does indeed propose that topline military spending increase by a little more than 4 percent from 2009 to 2010.  That's incontrovertible.

Second, even relative to inflation, which the White House, Congressional Budget Office, and Blue Chip forecasts all show at less than 2 percent, the proposed DOD budget is still an increase.

So how did this increase suddenly get labeled as a cut by some congressional Republicans and a number of folks in the media?  The answer is "cleverly," "brazenly," and "embarassingly."

The clever part was simple: the administration's critics focused on the fact that DOD Secretary Gates talked mostly about program cuts in his press conference last week instead of on total spending.  To the communities and companies that will be hurt by these changes, the topline is far less important than how they will be affected.  To them, the military budget is being reduced.  That was the local headline and impact, and the overall 4 percent increase simply was unimportant.

So, in a stunt that was worthy of Karl Rove or Lee Atwater, the administration's critics used that aspect of the proposal to get headlines.

The brazen part was also extremely cynical: the administration's critics assumed that few in the media would do much more than repeat what they said and that by the time the reports started to focus on the topline and realize that the critics had no clothes on, the damage would have been done and they would have achieved their objective.

The embarassingly part was the way the story was, in fact, reported.  The story should have been about the proposed reductions in certain DOD programs rather than in cuts in the military budget.  In fact, the focus shold have been on "changes" rather than on reductions; that was both more accurate and far less judgmental.  But the almost immediate follow-up story should have been on the attempts by the administration's critics to mischaracterize the changes.  That was left to John Stewart several days later.

One other embarassing note was the way the White House handled this announcement.  As I noted last Monday, by itself the Gates announcement was unusual.  But once the White House agreed to let Gates go ahead, it had an obligation to support the effort so that its message was clearer and better received and to prevent the type of mischaracterization that occurred.  That didn't happen.

Old News

'So, in a stunt that was worthy of Karl Rove or Lee Atwater....'

You don't remember all the 'cuts' of social spending we heard about during the Reagan years, that were merely reductions in planned increases?

Old news both ways

It's also one of the most common of all political ploys for politicians themselves to claim they are making tough cuts while increasing spending.

The NYC Board of Ed and its Chancellors and unions have become infamous for every year bewailing the ruthless cuts of essential services for children imposed on them, as their budget has only doubled in real terms in 15 years (with no measurable improvement in educational results). Every year their proposed budget of a 10% increase just to maintain the bare-bones status quo is slashed to only 5%. Look at how all those cuts add up! Could the system be any more starved of funds, they ask?

Right now NYS is imposing its biggest tax increase since it first created its income tax to support a 9% increase in spending next year (no recessionary belt tightening here), but WOW how those politicians have *cut everything* to keep that spending increase to only 9%! Medicaid! Schools! Cut, cut, cut! They're practically crazed libertarians if you believe what they claim.

Now that they've finally got sole control of the state budget themselves, every Democratic politician in the state has turned into Lee Atwater. What a shock!

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