Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) took to the Senate floor today and denigrated what he sees as a government addiction to spending, calling Obama “the addict-in-chief.” But what DeMint and other GOP lawmakers continue to ignore in their lambasts of over-spending is that the U.S. budget shortfall owes to the Bush-era tax cuts, the economic downturn, and war and defense spending rather than to any sort of “addiction” to discretionary spending.
In fact, the Senate Appropriations Committee has recently released data demonstrating that the Obama administration is spending the same amount per person each year in domestic discretionary spending, that is on health care, education, and other social services, as the Bush administration spent during its first year in 2001:
“Although non-defense discretionary spending in nominal dollars has increased, when taking inflation and population growth into account the amount contained in the [2011 budget] represents no increase over what we spent in 2001, a year in which we generated a surplus of $128 billion,” said chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) in a prepared statement. “So the right question to ask is: Are we really spending too much on non-defense programs? The answer is clearly no.”
The amounts of federal funds dedicated to the defense budget and to entitlement programs have grown over the past decade while tax revenues have fallen sharply. But as TPM notes, military spending is special case because, unlike with entitlement programs, there is no population growth to consider:
The idea here is that since this money is largely devoted to education, health care, and other services that benefit broad swaths of the population, the amount of it should grow roughly with population size. This stands in contrast to defense spending, which is why the committee did not correct defense spending for population growth.
And TPM also charts the numbers:
The Department of Defense’s baseline budget has nearly doubled in the past ten years and “is now higher in real terms than what we spent on average during the Cold War when we were faced with an existential threat from another superpower.” Two wars, a budget bill loaded with defense earmarks, and contractor price-gouging has all added to the total costs. The United States now spends more money on defense than it has since its full-on engagement during World War II.
If GOP lawmakers are serious about brokering a deal to lower the deficit as a part of the debt-ceiling controversy, they will have to open the door to cuts to the Department of Defense’s budget. With the July 22 deadline approaching fast, the GOP doesn’t have much time to change its tune.