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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press NYT Decides to Start Blaming Medicare and Social Security for Bad Weather

NYT Decides to Start Blaming Medicare and Social Security for Bad Weather

Wednesday, 17 October 2012 04:44

There is a serious effort by corporate honchos to cut Social Security and Medicare in the lame duck session of Congress. As has been reporting in several major media outlets, this campaign has raised tens of millions of dollars for this purpose.

Readers of a NYT "fact-check" on the presidential debate were no doubt wondering whether the paper had sold space to this campaign. The fact-check was addressing the question of whether Governor Romney wanted to increase military spending by $2.3 trillion over the course of the decade. At one point the piece told readers:

"The drop in military budgets as a share of G.D.P. is due less to any reductions for the Pentagon and more to the fact that a growing piece of the federal budget pie is being consumed by spending for entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as more baby boomers reach retirement age."

Of course that one makes no sense. Increased spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will raise their percentage of the budget and therefore could explain a decline in military spending as a share of the budget. It can only explain a decline in military spending as a share of GDP if spending on these programs raises GDP. While that is possible in a depressed economy, like the one we have seen the last 5 years, that is not the argument that we usually hear about these programs.

Furthermore, the Congressional Budget Office and other agencies do not project that the economy will remain depressed throughout the decade. Therefore this is assertion is not true in the context of the generally used budget projections. Presumably it just reflected a willingness of the NYT to get in a standard jibe about the growth of these programs, but skeptics may see the hand of the corporate campaign.

Thanks to Robert Naiman for calling this to my attention.   


Comments (2)Add Comment
Fact Check This NYT
written by Last Mover, October 17, 2012 7:32
Why not just cite as a fact to be checked that baby boomers were the result of pent up demand for children after the war, so WWII itself caused the crowding out of today's Pentagon spending by the greatest generation who dared postpone having children until after the war and are socialists for doing it, hell bent on bleeding dry the Pentagon down the road with conspiratorial entitlements that crowd out entitlements to private military contractors.
Romney/Ryan's 4% goal is the real problem
written by Robert Salzberg, October 17, 2012 8:06
President Obama moved the spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from a supplementary authorization and put them into the regular military budget so much of the decline in military spending in the budget is due to ending the wars.

More broadly, as our defense spending transitions from Cold War systems to modern conflicts we'll need less spending.

From the CBO:

"The growth in DoD’s costs would be less than the growth of the economy, so costs would decline as a share of gross domestic product (GDP). Spending for DoD’s base budget was 3.5 percent of GDP in 2010 and would decline to 3.0 percent of GDP in 2017 and to 2.5 percent in 2030."


The real issue is that Romney/Ryan are arbitrarily fixated on spending 4% of GDP on the military without any clear justification.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.