Dylan Ratigan: One of America's Biggest Problems is a 'Multitrillion Dollar Defense Budget'

In our ongoing quest to answer Paul Krugman's ironic question "How can voters be so ill informed [sic]," NewsBusters offers an exquisitely ignorant budgetary concern posed by Dylan Ratigan Wednesday.

On the MSNBC program bearing his name, the host actually said that one of America's biggest problems is a "multitrillion dollar defense budget" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

DYLAN RATIGAN, MSNBC: So, yes, there are winners, you illustrated those. Yes, there are some losers, not just the ones you talked about, but the ones that Cenk talked about as well. But before we get into the winners and losers, or as a side note to it, isn't it impossible to solve a giant problem by doing little things? Here's what I mean. We have, as I see it, five multitrillion dollar problems in this country. A multitrillion dollar defense budget.

Now, "multitrillion" would mean two trillion or more, correct?

Well, according to the Office of Management and Budget, defense spending in 2011 will be $750 billion. 

When I went to school, that wasn't even a trillion dollars let alone multitrillion.

Taking this further, we are currently spending about 20 percent of our total budget on defense.

To put this in perspective, since Reagan was inaugurated in 1981, defense spending as a percentage of the total budget has ranged from 16 percent to 28 percent putting our current allocation a bit lower than the 30 year average.

However, and this will likely come as a shock to many readers, prior to 1981, America spent a far greater percentage of its total budget on defense than it has in the past three decades.

From 1947 till 1980, defense spending ranged from a low of 23 percent of outlays all the way to 70 percent.

In fairness, prior to 1969, the budget didn't include Social Security and Medicare. As such, comparing apples to apples, 2011's defense budget as a percentage of on-budget outlays will be 23 percent putting it at the very low end of what this nation has spent on defense since World War II.

So not only was Ratigan wrong in the numbers he cited, he was also mistaken about this being one of our more serious problems.

And Krugman wonders why voters are so ill-informed.

Foreign Policy Budget Economy Dylan Ratigan MSNBC Dylan Ratigan
Noel Sheppard's picture

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