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« Thanks To All The Guest Bloggers. | WILLisms.com | Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 52. »

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 313 -- Spending Too Much On The Military?

Too Much Mandatory Spending-

Last night, Hoodlumman directed me to this very neat graphic titled "Death and Taxes," which offers a neat visual of how our tax money is spent:


There's an extremely large version over at deviantART, as well.

Anyway, it's a look at America's 2004 Federal Budget. It's very, very well-done.

It's also flawed in a major way.

Setting aside that the final numbers all ended the year different from the depiction (not the artist's fault), the artist tries to make the point that the United States spends too much on the military and not enough on other priorities. (Here):


In order to make such a claim, the artist uses a misleading sleight of hand to exclude mandatory/entitlement spending such as Medicare and Social Security from the picture, then has the nerve to claim that President Bush is misleading folks for including those gargantuan programs in his budget report.

Well, here's the truth.

Even if we do pretend entitlement programs did not exist in FY2004, far more discretionary dollars went to non-military spending than expected (.pdf):


Again, not the artist's fault. He made his graphic with the best information available at the time, prior to the money actually being spent.

It is, however, the artist's fault that his entire otherwise awesome graphic is worthless without putting mandatory spending into perspective.

So, let's put it into perspective (click for a larger version):


And, actually, to be truly proportional to budget reality, we'd need to shrink down the circles in the top left and increase the circles in the top right just a bit.

If that defense spending circle is worth $398 billion (something the artist assumed at the time), then the entitlement spending circles are proportional.

And one more tidbit:

According to the CIA World Factbook, the United States spent roughly 4% of GDP on the military, which positioned America in 26th place in the world in military spending as a percentage of its economy. Despite that relatively low level of spending (the U.S. spent in the double-digits throughout much of the 20th century), the United States still spent more than six times more than second place China in actual dollars. That's, perhaps, one reason why many left-wingers at home and abroad want to destroy America's economy with high taxes, overzealous environmental and labor regulations, and other Marxist ideology-in-action. America's enormous, booming economy allows for substantial force projection in the world, all at a relatively low cost.

Unfortunately, as those mandatory spending elements, which, for the most part, were set into action under the New Deal and Great Society, grow unsustainably over the next few decades, American taxpayers will no longer be able to choose priorities on the top left or top right.

It's sinister, the lack of entitlement reform in this country.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Texas Tax Reform.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 April 2006 11:04 AM


"If we ignore the huge elephant in the room, you'll see that discretionary spending is out of control..."


If SS and other entitlement programs were reigned in, then gov't pols and other feel-good legislation lover would have billions to spend on the arts, NPR or whatever.

Posted by: Hoodlumman at April 18, 2006 04:22 PM

Wow! I shudder to think what you might come back with if you took an entire month off!...

Posted by: Ironman at April 18, 2006 06:12 PM

Sorry, but there is nothing misleading about it. It is a representation of the discretionary budget. In fact, in the big circle in the middle, it quite clearly states what it means.

...it's a look at America's 2004 Federal Budget

This is simply misleading on your part. The author clearly states that it is the Federal discretionary budget. By ignoring this fact, you are building a strawman case in claiming it is "misleading".

United States spent roughly 4% of GDP on the military, which positioned America in 26th place in the world in military spending as a percentage of its economy. Despite that relatively low level of spending...

"Relatively low level". How can you keep a straight face and say that? Look at your own link. Around what other countries is the United States clustered around? You don't see too many Western nations or democracies do you?

You should compare the US to comparable nations - Australia, UK, Canada, France, Germany - they all spend considerably less on the military as a proportion of GDP and spend hugely less from an absolute point of view.


Michael Tam

vitualis' Medical Rants

Posted by: Michael Tam at April 19, 2006 02:53 AM

Why is it necessary to compare the U.S. to so-called 'comparable nations?'

Europe and Canada take advantage of U.S. largesse by not spending their own money on defense. They are freeloaders.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at April 19, 2006 04:29 AM

There's nothing misleading in my post. At all. It's only misleading to exclude mandatory spending from a visual representation of where tax dollars go, then whine about how we spend more on jets than on hospitals, which the artist did.

It's also absolutely ridiculous for the artist to say the President is misleading people by including mandatory spending in the budget.

Posted by: Will Franklin at April 19, 2006 11:14 AM

I don't think the author of the graphic was trying to fool anyone, he was just taking a particular perspective. How is the portion of the federal budget on which the the government has some choice divvied up? The sub-title of "where your tax dollars go" is slightly misleading, but it is clearly explained what the chart depicts.

BTW, some of the numbers on the military side astounded me.

Nuclear Submarines? Anti-missle defense? Aircraft carriers? Why are these relics of the cold war still relevant in today's world?

Posted by: Pete Reiter at April 19, 2006 03:47 PM

Interesting correlation on the people who think that the depiction wasn't misleading and the people who think that we don't need defenses.

Posted by: JohnJ at April 19, 2006 04:04 PM

Today the budget is $440 Billion for the military, more than the entire world combined.

China? 34B/Year

Iraq before we invaded? $1.8/year.

Yep we have our priorties right. Right in the gutter.

Posted by: John Cobarruvias at April 19, 2006 11:34 PM

Wow, John. You've convinced me.

Posted by: Hoodlumman at April 20, 2006 08:32 AM