Too bad you can neither read nor think

Over at TCS, John Merline writes:

All of which raises the question: Did anyone actually bother to read the budget? Apparently not. [He likely meant Sadly, No! –S,N!] Because a casual look through the document finds that few of the claims holds water. As it turns out:

As it turns out = let the fun begin!

The Defense budget is going down, not up. Bush has set total Defense spending for 2007 at $504 billion, down from $512 billion in 2006. (Bush is increasing the “core” defense budget; the savings come from a proposed cutback in “emergency funding” for the Iraq War.) Bush wants to cut Defense spending still more in 2008, to $473 billion.

The White House says!

Provides $439.3 billion for the Department of Defense’s base budget—a 7-percent increase over 2006 and a 48-percent increase over 2001

Of course, to anyone outside of the TCS brain trust, it’s quite apparent that FY 2006 isn’t quite over yet, so any conclusions about the Defense department budget for that year is a bit early. Especially in light of this:

The country’s two overseas wars and its homeland defense could cost as much as $10 billion a month this year, nearly 50 percent more than last year, the White House estimates.

But hey, John has seen the future and knows the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan won’t cost any more than projected in 2007, just as it has so far:

Even the White House admits its deficit projection for 2007 is probably low because this budget only asks for $50 billion in war money; we needed $120 billion in 2005.

Back to John:

Bush proposes spending $43.6 billion on Homeland Security, down from $43.8 billion in 2006. The figure keeps dropping each year for the next five.

Funny that’s not what the White House says:

The President’s Budget:
Increases spending on non-defense homeland security activities by 8 percent Government-wide compared to 2006;
The 2007 programmatic Budget request for the Department is $35.6 billion, an increase of $2.3 billion (7 percent) over 2006

Or even:

Total, Homeland Security Funding 54,862 (2006, enacted) 58,282 (2007, requested)

Two strikes John, wanna take another swing?

Education spending is through the roof: Even if Bush does convince Congress to trim back on education spending in 2007, the Department of Education’s budget will be 80% bigger than when Bush took office.

Survey says!

Total, Outlays 72,945 (2005, actual) 83,984 (2006, estimate) 64,484 (2007, requested)

The requested authority stays at the 2007 level through 2011. Which is another way of saying that:

Nearly all of this growth took place between 2001 and 2003, as the No Child Left Behind Act was being implemented. Most of the new spending was for aid to K-12 schools (including special education funding), which jumped from $19 billion to $32 billion. An $8 billion hike in college student financial aid dominated the rest of the spending increase.

Three strikes, but we give John one extra swing anyway:

Medicare “cuts” aren’t cuts at all: The program will continue to grow at a healthy clip over the next five years, spending $100 billion more in 2011 than in 2007. All Bush is proposing is a modest adjustment in the rate of increase. Yes, the change adds up to $36 billion over five years, but that’s a mere 1.6% of the $2.2 trillion in projected Medicare spending for those years.

This is an old argument, and one that won’t be settled here. Does funding at a level that is short of the increase in the cost of a given program (whether that increase is due to inflation or whatever,) amount to a cut or “simply” a reduction in growth? If inflation goes up 10% and your take home pay goes up by 5%, did your salary increase in any meaningful way? Did it go down?

You make the call — but of the four “points” made by John in his opening, keep in mind that this is strongest one.

If you are a producer or reporter who is interested in receiving more information about this article or the author, please email your request to

Sadly, No!


Comments: 5


Interesting line of argument, in that you take Bush’s word for it on his budget numbers when it is convenient, and dispute his forecast when that suits your case.

Here, for the record, are the actual numbers from Bush’s Budget:

Defense spending:

Total, Discretionary outlays 2005 $473,697; 2006 $510,361; 2007 $503,055. (Looks like a decrease to me.)

Homeland Security:
Total, Discretionary outlays 2005 $38,358; 2006 $43,846; 2007 $42,765 (I have no idea where you got your numbers, but here is the link to the page with the correct ones (see page 14)

Education Dept:
2001 $35.7 b; 2002 $46.3 2003 $57.4; 2004 $62.8; 2005 $85.3; 2006 $64.5 (Nearly half of the increase in education spending occured between 2003 and 2005.)

2007 $360.5 b; 2011 $493.7 b (That’s an increase of 36.9% over five years. By way of comparison, Bill Clinton’s last budget called for a five year increase in Medicare of 30%. I don’t seem to recall anyone complaining about Medicare cuts then.)

You are right. This is fun!


John, John, John- Sadly NO! isn’t disputing Bush’s budget when convenient- BUSH HIMSELF is disputing his budget when convenient. It’s called “talking out of both sides of your mouth”, and one would think after six years of this you might be familiar with it. What part of “The white house itself admits its deficit projection is probably low” are you not understanding? If the WH has stated that DOD’s $439.3B is a 7% increase, why aren’t aren’t you calling them liars? Or is that harder that defending your precious honor is blog comments?

Pot, this is kettle…


A better analogy for the Medicare cuts: if your boss promised you annual raises of 5% when you signed on, and then decides two years on to reduce that to 3% raises, that is a CUT (or, if you’re the NY Times, a “savings”).


Pot to kettle…
So we aren’t really in disagreement then. The point of my article was to challenge the claim that Bush is cutting spending by any signficant amount, which was the way his budget has been depicted in most media coverage, and by Democratic and Republican critics, and, as you correctly point out, by Bush himself.

On defense spending, as my original article clearly stated, the “core” defense budget gets an increase, but overall Defense spending declines. Why focus on the subset instead of the whole?

As to Dr. BDH’s point, I would call the change in Medicare what it is: a proposed small reduction in the rapid rate of increase.


Is it wonky in here, or is it me? Oh, wait it’s TCS, so maybe I mean Wonkesque. Where Sciencish meets Factesque! I’m not gonna hackattack Merline, I would like this discussion to continue. I think we can have an actual conversation.


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