Tom Shanker reports for The New York Times that the Pentagon’s $515.4 billion budget request means that if it’s approved “annual military spending, when adjusted for inflation, will have reached its highest level since World War II.” Indeed, that’s an understatement because that figure “does not include supplemental spending on the war efforts or on nuclear weapon.” Basically, military spending is way, way, way higher than it was during World War II since there’s little reason to think that spending on a war shouldn’t be counted as military spending. Now the country is obviously much richer than it was in the early 1940s so we can afford this kind of extravagance if the broader geopolitical context justifies it. But does it?
That above is a chart Ezra Klein made based on 2005 data. Little about that context suggests to me that we needed to add much more money than the entire Chinese defense budget to our own spending. It’s worth keeping in mind the next time you hear that the country “can’t afford” to do something or other. We can afford plenty when it’s something that political and economic elites want us to spend money on.