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Rebuttal of Ezra Klein’s and Dustin Siggins’s blatant lies

On November 20th, extremely liberal Washington Compost blogger Ezra Klein published a cretinous, completely wrong blogpost titled “The sequester’s defense cuts aren’t that scary, in one graph”. Therein, Klein falsely claims that the sequester’s defense cuts would be mild and would not gut the military:

“The defense cuts contained in the sequester would be a “disaster,” says Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Implementing them would “would risk hollowing out our force,” says Army Gen. Martin Dempsey. It would be a “crippling blow to our military,” says Sen. John McCain.

But not as bad a blow as the military has faced in the past. This graph comes from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and it shows real military spending since the Korean War (“real” in that the graph adjusts for inflation):

As you can see, the post-9/11 rise in military spending was larger than the rise during Vietnam and during the Cold War. And even if we implement every single cut in the sequester, the fall in spending would be less than the military experienced after Korea, Vietnam, or the Cold War.

Of course, almost everyone expects that the sequester will, eventually, be disarmed, and the actual cuts to the military will be substantially smaller than what you’re seeing on this graph. That means that despite the incredible build-up after 9/11, the fall in spending will be much less than it was after Korea, Vietnam, or the Cold War…”

He also claimed that nondefense discretionary spending will be “gutted” by the sequester and that it “doesn’t have nearly as much political protection.”

His claims are all blatant lies.

Let’s start with that utterly forged, completely wrong graph from the CSIS. It purports to show that US military spending rose above $700 bn in FY2009-FY2011 and that it will still be at $500 bn after sequestration, even in January FY2013, let alone later.

These numbers are completely wrong. Total US military spending, including GWOT and DOE defense-related program costs, NEVER reached, let alone exceeded, $700 bn at any point during the last 67 years. Never. It peaked at $688 bn in FY2011; in FY2010, it was $664 bn. Furthermore, if sequestration kicks in, the base defense budget will shrink to $469 bn in January 2013 and will stay below $500 bn for the remainder of the sequestration decade (and probably even afterwards), and even adding GWOT/OCO and DOE military spending does not bring the military budget up to $500 bn, let alone above it, especially given that these two items are ALSO subject to sequestration. (Yes, you read that correctly: war funding and funding for the DOE’s defense-related programs are ALSO subject to sequestration. Which means the DOD will have to cut base defense programs even deeper than otherwise just to pay the war bills.)

Here’s a CBO graph showing the REAL impact of sequestration. It utterly refutes the fake CSIS graph Klein posted.

Furthermore, the sequester’s cut to the defense budget – $66 bn virtually overnight, plus cuts to GWOT and DOE nat-sec budgets – would, collectively, amount to DEEPER defense budget cuts than those that followed the end of the Vietnam War or the Cold War, although not the massacre that followed the end of the Korean War. Furthermore, they will occur while over 60,000 American troops are still in harms’ way in Afghanistan.

Moreover, these deep defense cuts will have a devastating impact on an already overstretched, overused, depleted military which must now recapitalize and replace its worn-out, obsolete equipment after over 11 years of nonstop war while still deterring many threats and protecting America as well as its crucial allies. See here and here, for example, if you don’t want to listen to professional military leaders and to veteran budget manager Leon Panetta.

Klein’s claim that defense is “politically protected” is also a blatant lie, and a very popular one. The fact is that, as I have repeatedly proven here, Republicans are NOT protecting defense and have never protected it (although I wish they would). They’ve already agreed to Sec. Gates’ killing of over 50 crucial weapon programs in 2009 and 2010; to New START ratification (i.e. to unilateral cuts in America’s nuclear arsenal); to Sec. Gates’s Efficiencies Initiative, worth $178 bn; and to the $487 bn defense cuts mandated by the first tier of the BCA. Any claim that defense spending is “politically protected” is a blatant lie.

Finally, Klein’s claim that domestic spending would be “gutted” under sequestration is also a blatant lie, as documented by Dustin Siggins here. Moreover, under sequestration, defense spending would bear over 60% of the budget cuts burden, while domestic discretionary spending would get less than 40% of the slack and would see cuts of less than $40 bn per year, distributed over many agencies. That’s not gutting. Gutting is what defense will see under sequestration.

But Siggins, while smacking down Ezra Klein, made several lies of his own, and thus displayed once again his own ignorance of defense issues.

It’s funny that Siggins, while smacking down Ezra Klein, displays his own utter ignorance.

1) Firstly, it is not true that there is “massive fraud, waste, and duplication in the defense budget”. There is some of it (as there is in the budget of every federal agency), but not “massive” or “a huge amount”. If you have evidence, Dustin, publish it immediately or zip your lips.

And no, crucial weapon programs like the Next Gen Bomber, missile defense systems, the V-22, or the Virginia class are not “waste”.

The claim that there is “massive fraud, waste and duplication” in the defense budget is spread only by 1) those who want to make deep cuts in it, regardless of the consequences, and want to deliberately mislead the public into thinking that such cuts can be done safely; and 2) those ignorant people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

2) Contracting services need to be reformed carefully and skillfully, not “drastically”.

3) Ezra Klein’s graph is utterly false. It purports to show that US military spending rose above $700 bn in FY2009-FY2011 and that it will still be at $500 bn after sequestration, even in January FY2013, let alone later.

These numbers are completely wrong. Total US military spending, including GWOT and DOE defense-related program costs, NEVER reached, let alone exceeded, $700 bn at any point during the last 67 years. Never. It peaked at $688 bn in FY2011; in FY2010, it was $664 bn. Furthermore, if sequestration kicks in, the base defense budget will shrink to $469 bn in January 2013 and will stay below $500 bn for the remainder of the sequestration decade (and probably even afterwards), and even adding GWOT/OCO and DOE military spending does not bring the military budget up to $500 bn, let alone above it, especially given that these two items are ALSO subject to sequestration. (Yes, you read that correctly: war funding and funding for the DOE’s defense-related programs are ALSO subject to sequestration. Which means the DOD will have to cut base defense programs even deeper than otherwise just to pay the war bills.)

Here’s a CBO graph showing the REAL impact of sequestration. It utterly refutes the fake CSIS graph Klein posted.

4) The claim that “the aforementioned cuts to defense spending are essential to help the nation avoid a calamitous fiscal collapse, as well as better serve the troops…” is a blatant lie.

No, these cuts are not “essential” to avoid a calamitous fiscal collapse. The sequester’s defense cuts ($60 bn per year), or even its total cuts ($120 bn per year), would barely make a dent in the annual federal budget deficit ($1.3 trillion per year), and would thus do NOTHING to prevent a “calamitous fiscal collapse”. All that sequestration would accomplish would be to GUT the US military.

Which brings me to my next point: the sequester’s cuts would be a huge DISSERVICE to the troops and a huge damage to national security. I’m not exaggerating. Here is a holistic analysis of what sequestration would mean for America’s defense: here, here, and here.

But of course, as a non-conservative, Siggins doesn’t care.

5) To say that defense spending is “constitutional” is a vast understatement. Under the Constitution, defense is the #1 Constitutional DUTY of the federal government, which is obligated to do whatever is necessary to provide for the country’s defense. Anything short of that is a dereliction of duty.

6) Deep defense cuts are NOT necessary to balance the budget, as proven by the budget plans of Chairman Ryan, the Republican Study Committee, Sen. Toomey, Sen. Lee, and the Heritage Foundation.

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