The Iraq War and the State Budget?

At the Taubman Center panel on the Rhode Island budget crisis I attended at Brown University a few weeks ago, several members of the audience attempted to attribute at least part of the state deficit to Federal cut-backs in domestic spending forced by the costs of fighting in the Iraqi theater in the War on Terror. (And much to my disappointment, Paul Choquette, supposedly one of the voices of fiscal sanity on the panel, didn’t disagree). However, the notion of a drastic — or any — reduction in domestic spending by the Federal government since 2001 or 2003 isn’t supported by the numbers.

The Heritage Foundation‘s Brian Riedl has calculated that Federal spending, adjusted for inflation, has grown by about 30% overall since the year 2001. Riedl doesn’t break out an Iraq-war figure specifically, but he does separate out the defense-related portion of the Federal budget. According to his numbers, 63% of the amount of the Federal spending increase has gone to entitlements and other non-defense related areas, while 34.5% has gone to defense. Non-defense related spending, in fact, has risen in the vicinity of 3% to 4% above the rate of inflation, on an annual basis, since the year 2001.

So, with Federal spending per household already near its highest levels ever (over $23,000, according to the Heritage Foundation), are advocates for bigger-and-bigger government really willing to attach themselves to the position that non-defense related government spending should always be climbing by more than twice the rate of inflation, no matter how much of the nation’s GDP is ultimately consumed?

Federal government outlays reported in Federal Spending by the Numbers 2008, dated February 25, 2008, by Brian M. Riedl of the Heritage Foundation; all figures are in BILLIONS of dollars…

200241529429 1,3142032,390

New Spending since 2001: $675,000,000,000

New Defense Spending since 2001: $233,000,000,000 (34.5%)

New Entitlement/Non-Defense Discretionary Spending: $425,000,000,000 (63%)

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16 years ago

Plus, how much of that $604b on defense spending is actually pork barrel spending? (Which members of Congress of both parties are equally and annoyingly guilty of.)

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