One of the lies that never, ever dies on the right is that liberals and Democrats are “weak on defense” and want to just let anyone attack and destroy us (never mind that we haven’t actually been attacked by any nation in 75 years, while we’ve invaded many countries without provocation). Ted Cruz is still telling that lie about Obama:
“Barack Obama right now, No. 1, over seven years, has dramatically degraded our military. You know, just two weeks ago was the 25th anniversary of the first Persian Gulf war,” the Texas senator said. “When that war began, we had 8,000 planes. Today, we have about 4,000. When that war began, we had 529 ships. Today, we have 272.”
Leaving aside the ridiculous basis of this claim, that fewer ships and planes means less military power (technology, how the fuck does that work?), this is all a big lie. Do we spend less on the military now than we did when Obama took office? Yes. And why is that? Two reasons: Because we ended two wars (imagine that, we spend less money on the military when we aren’t fighting wars than when we are; whoda thunk it?) and because the sequestration deal that passed a Republican-controlled Congress mandated minor — and I mean minor — cuts to military spending.
Spending on national security includes the Pentagon budget as well as other agencies, such as the Energy Department’s work on nuclear weapons. Spending increased in 2010 and 2011, but it has fallen every year for four years since then by a cumulative 15 percent.
Other ways of looking at the question show declines as well. National security spending made up 20.1 percent of the federal budget in 2010, but in 2015 it was 15.9 percent. Over the same period, spending fell from 4.6 percent of gross domestic product to 3.3 percent.There are two main reasons for the spending drop. The first is the Obama administration’s decision to start removing U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. The second has to do with a process known as sequestration.
Sequestration refers to automatic, across-the-board cuts to both military and nonmilitary spending that were originally designed to force bipartisan negotiators in Congress to strike a deal in 2011.
Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s book The Price of Politics showed that defense sequestration was an idea that came out of Obama’s White House. But the intention was to force Republicans to negotiate, not to actually put the cuts into effect.
But negotiations fell apart, so the cuts went into effect. The bipartisan nature of the sequestration provision means that both parties merit a share of the blame, experts say.
The most recent Obama budget proposed a 7.8 percent increase in the base Defense Department budget between 2015 and 2016.
The spending bill enacted this fall puts the defense budget on a path to start growing in fiscal year 2016, up about 6 percent from the previous year.
“For five years in a row, Congress enacted a defense budget that was less than President Obama requested,” said Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told PolitiFact the night of the debate. “So I don’t think it’s accurate to pin the blame on the president for reductions in defense spending.”
That’s right. For the last five years, Congress has appropriated less money on defense spending than Obama requested, with full Republican control of both houses. So why isn’t Cruz blaming Republicans for this imaginary weakness? And here’s a question I have for people like Cruz: How much is enough? We already account for 47% of all military spending in the entire world. How much is enough? How high would it have to be for you to stop shitting your pants with fear every time someone rattles a sword somewhere? How high do defense industry profits have to be before you stop your demagoguery? The answer, of course, is that it will never be enough.