Chart of the Day: “Current Military Spending Is Lapping at Historic Highs, Not Lows.”

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Remember chained CPI? It’s every conservative’s favorite measure of inflation. The government’s statistical boffins like it because they say it measures inflation more accurately, and conservatives like it because it reduces future Social Security inflation adjustments. Everyone likes it!

Since it’s so popular, Winslow Wheeler decided to apply chained CPI to historical Pentagon spending. The result is the green line in the chart below:

In a nutshell, what this shows is that even after the recent decline following the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense spending in 2015 will still be higher than it’s been in the entire rest of the postwar period, aside from a single year at the height of the Reagan buildup. This is especially remarkable considering that in 2015 we won’t be fighting any wars and we won’t have a single major military competitor anywhere on the globe.

Should we measure defense spending instead as a percentage of GDP, as the Pentagon itself likes to do it? That’s appropriate for some things, but it’s really not here. The fact that our GDP has grown doesn’t make the country any more expensive to defend. Nor is this an example of Baumol’s disease, since we’ve considerably reduced the number of people in the armed forces over the past two decades.

Basically, we spend a boatload of money on defense, and the size of the boat has been steadily rising for more than 50 years. Policywise, Wheeler’s conclusion is pretty simple: “Current military spending is lapping at historic highs, not lows.”

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate