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How Many Progressive Budget Analysts Does It Take to Notice the Military?


By davidswanson - Posted on 15 February 2011

Whether or not one recklessly and misleadingly includes Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid in discussions of the federal discretionary budget, the fact remains that over half of the discretionary budget (of everything other than Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid) is military. The primary talking point coming out of the White House is the need to freeze all non-military discretionary spending. And yet it is difficult to find a progressive analysis of the budget President Obama proposed on Monday that even mentions the existence of the military.

Here's Robert Reich arguing for taxing and spending. I agree with everything he says. I would tax the rich if all it accomplished was taxing the rich. I would spend on the poor if the money had to be borrowed. But there has to be some reason why Reich does not mention the option of funding everything he dreams of and more by cutting the military back to merely three times the size of anyone else's. He must believe the United States benefits from and can survive an ever-larger military budget. Or he must be afraid to say otherwise.

You can find similar, military-free analysis at the Campaign for America's Future, although CAF does squeeze mention of the military in here, and at the Nation. At Huffington Post the main story doesn't mention the military, and it's followed by a blurb misleadingly suggesting that the "defense" budget is being cut, while in reality it is going up. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities includes one half sentence misleadingly suggesting "defense" is being cut.

Ezra Klein, not your most progressive blogger, was, to his credit, among those bucking the trend. He called the United States government An insurance conglomerate protected by a large, standing army and pointed out that The Defense Department won the future, or at least the budget.

You can listen to the audio recording of a phone call the White House held on Monday with progressive bloggers here. Congressional Budget Office spokesman Ken Baer briefly mentions the White House's misleading claim to be cutting $78 billion from "defense" without stressing that those are theoretical cuts in future years and cuts from a dream list but actually increases above this year's budget. White House adviser David Plouffe did not mention the military at all in his initial comments when he joined the call late.

Progressive bloggers asked why the budget was so hard on poor people and so easy on the rich, why funding for poor people's heat was being slashed, how cuts could possibly be good for the economy, et cetera. They wanted spending, not cuts. They dragged in Social Security. But the call was almost over before a single one of them brought up the existence of the U.S. military, despite the fact that over half of discretionary spending goes there, and despite the consensus among economists that the same spending elsewhere would produce many more jobs and jobs with better pay.

Christina O'Connell with FireDogLake, always the best blog that manages to maintain access to these calls, asked about the pretended cuts in military spending and about the ongoing war spending and whether there would be additional off-the-books supplemental bills. Plouffe replied by bashing Bush's practice of using supplementals despite Obama having broken a promise and used them for the past two years, but did not promise not to go on using them for a third year. At the same time Plouffe meaninglessly bragged about a decrease in war spending in the 2012 budget. He did not reply at all to the first half of O'Connell's question, regarding the pretense that overall military spending is being cut while in reality it is going up. He did not explain that the theoretical future cuts are only proposed as cuts to wish lists while still allowing the budget to increase year by year.

Why the lack of interest among the other bloggers in the majority of the budget they are reporting on?

Do progressive bloggers consider it their duty to talk (albeit in a better way) about the topics those in power want to talk about? Would it be rude to raise a new topic no matter how relevant?

Or do progressives who are loyal to the Democratic Party and therefore invited on White House phone calls share Barack Obama's desire to increase the military every year and use it against a growing number of countries each year?

These are serious questions, even deadly serious questions.

UPDATE:
This blog from Susie Madrak at CrooksAndLiars mentions war spending.

UPDATE 2:
David Dayen mentioned the military budget on Al Jazeera English last night but I can't find video.

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