By Ryan McMaken
It is common to see articles and columns in the Conservative media claiming that President Obama is engaging in “historic defense cuts.” There are claims that not in decades has the military ever endured such budget slashing. “Romney blasts Obama over military cutbacks” one headline blares.
Upon closer examination of these claims, one notes that the authors are careful to never mention actual dollar amounts in context, or any meaningful historical context beyond single recent year-over-year comparisons.
Most of these stories are careful to only mention military spending on certain projects, and never military spending as a whole. They look at troop numbers and other measures that don’t reflect total military spending.
And it’s not surprising that total military spending is never mentioned. Because, if it were, it would quickly become apparent that military spending is in fact near historic highs, and above the levels of spending that occurred under Ronald Reagan during his own Cold War buildup.
So, if you are worried about military spending, you can rest easy. Nor is there any cause for alarm in the wake of the most recent budget deal approved by Republican leaders and Obama. There will be nothing but budget increases over the next two years:
The plan will lift caps on the appropriated spending passed by Congress each year by $50 billion in 2016 and $30 billion in 2017, evenly divided between defense and domestic programs. Another approximately $16 billion would come each year in the form of inflated war spending, evenly split between the Defense and State departments.
So, not only will there be more base-level defense spending, but what is currently in the agreement can also be voided in favor of even more defense spending in case of new wars.
Even if there were “cuts” on the table, its unlikely military spending would be cut back to Cold War levels, let alone to Vietnam War-era levels. Here is military spending (excluding spending on veterans, diplomatic programs, and Homeland Security) in constant 2009 dollars: