Defense Spending and Propagandizing the Second Derivative

Once again, some are making a big deal out of the second derivative, just as was done with unemployment numbers (Got Green Shoots?), when they shouldn't. Consider this from an NY Times article about defense spending increases:

Mr. Gates is arguing that if the Pentagon budget is allowed to keep growing by 1 percent a year, he can find 2 percent or 3 percent in savings in the department's bureaucracy to reinvest in the military -- and that will be sufficient money to meet national security needs. In one of the paradoxes of Washington budget battles, Mr. Gates, even as he tries to forestall deeper cuts, is trying to kill weapons programs he says the military does not need over the objections of members of Congress who want to protect jobs.

Mr. Gates enjoys bipartisan support on Capitol Hill and has considerable sway within the administration. But while he may hold the line against major cuts for now, analysts say support for military spending could erode quickly once the Pentagon withdraws a substantial number of troops from Afghanistan.

Let's be clear about what this means.

The largest budget in the world by far will be increasing in real, inflation adjusted dollars, not just nominal dollars. But Secretary Gates makes this sound like a sacrifice. This is simply a slowing down of the ongoing expansion of the defense budget.

Then there's this little gem:

Senior administration officials said they hoped Mr. Gates's effort would help quiet critics who asked why military spending had been exempted from the president's order for a 5 percent cut in the budgets of most domestic agencies.

These are very similar activities, except one is a spending increase and the other is a spending cut. If we're cutting non-military spending across the board (broadly, anyway) by five percent (which is really fucking stupid with unemployment nearing ten percent, and no signs of dropping), then cut the military spending too.

Someday, we will figure out than infrastructure-based Keynesian economics works far better for most people than military hardware-based Keynesian economics...

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I see where you're coming from, but we are fighting two wars. Given how much defense spending was slashed in the early 90s it's no surprise to me people would be thinking 1% increase is modest. In fact, defense department spending in billions, adjusted for inflation, is about even with what we were spending at the peak of Vietnam ( I agree cutting everything else by 5% is a low blow. But the DoD employees 3 million people and according to this ( employees over twice as many people as Wal-mart for less than half the budget. So it's pretty darn efficient. Not to mention all the money that supports contracts that employees private sector employees. All the scientific grants that go to universities, all the DARPA research initiatives. I'm not saying I'd rather cut education, but there are definitely things I'd rather cut before cutting defense. It's more than the obvious black/white issue that war is bad as our DoD is more than just a war machine. Now if you say we need to raise taxes to fight wars (or just raise them period) I am right there with you. But you can see how that'd be an even harder sell in this economy.