The ABC political talk show “This Week” Sunday featured a panel discussion with Keynesian liberal economist Paul Krugman and libertarian-oriented Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who is not a Keynesian.
You wouldn’t expect them to agree on much, if anything. Ah, but you would be wrong. They agree that Mitt Romney’s latest ads attacking President Obama’s alleged plans to cut a trillion dollars from defense spending (it’s not that simple) are hypocritical.
This is the ad that Romney is running here in Virginia. Note especially the reference to defense cuts in the state threatening over 130,000 jobs:
KRUGMAN: Right now, Mitt Romney has an ad blitz where he’s accusing Obama of cutting defense spending, which is actually, you know, that’s not really true, but and then he says and the reason this is terrible is it because it will eliminate jobs. So the Romney campaign’s position is government spending can’t create jobs unless it goes to defense contractors in which case it’s the lifeblood of the economy…
PAUL: And that’s an inconsistency. That’s an inconsistency.
KRUGMAN: It’s pretty major.
PAUL: And it’s wrong. They are accepting Keynes with regard to military spending…
KRUGMAN: Weaponized Keynesianism.
PAUL: … but not with regard to domestic spending.
So when it comes to federal spending, Romney unabashedly justifies defense spending– and only defense spending– as a jobs program. It’s an inconsistency so obvious that even Krugman and Paul can agree on it.
When asked why he chose to plus up spending beyond commander requests, Ryan stated that “We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice.”
“I think there is a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the Pentagon budget which is not really a true, honest and accurate budget,” he said. “When you confront military experts – retired or active – they concede these things to us.”
After considerable blowback from the likes of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey and others, Ryan walked back his comments, telling the CNN’s State of the Union that he “misspoke,” but Ryan’s budget speaks for itself by effectively ignoring the very recommendations those military experts set forth.
Romney’s answer to concerns over his running mate’s discrepancies is that his own budget plan will take precedence, but according to the Boston Globe, “Romney’s solution [defense budget plan] is one of the most far-ranging, expensive, and perhaps least understood of his campaign.” Romney would commit at least 4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, without regard to strategy, to base defense spending that does not include the wars. That’s about 61 percent more over a decade than we spend now, and considerably more than Ryan himself has ever proposed. When Romney’s reason for the increase was evaluated by the Pulitzer-winning fact check website, Politifact, the argument was given its lowest truth-o-meter rating: “pants on fire.”
Update: Rand Paul was surprised to learn from Paul Krugman that the number of government employees has decreased under President Obama.