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.   

 

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