Since we've spent some time this week discussing the competing approaches to defense spending from the Obama and Romney campaigns, it's worth noting that the topic came up again during last night's vice presidential debate.
Moderator Martha Raddatz noted the Romney/Ryan plan to "increase the defense budget." Paul Ryan denied that.
"No, we're not just going to cut the defense budget."
Vice President Biden intervened, explaining the Republican plan to spend an additional $2 trillion, and again, Ryan denied it.
After some back and forth, Raddatz asked, "But I want to know how you do the math and have this increase in defense spending?" Ryan replied:
"You don't cut defense by a trillion dollars. That's what we're talking about.... [W]e're saying don't cut the military by a trillion dollars. Not increase it by a trillion, don't cut it by a trillion dollars."
Someone listening to this might assume that Ryan -- an alleged "numbers guy" -- simply wants to avoid cuts to military spending, and doesn't actually intend to increase the defense budget.
But that assumption would be wrong, and Ryan was playing fast and loose with the facts. Thomas Ricks and Travis Sharp fleshed out the details this week, but given what we know of the Romney/Ryan plan, the $2 trillion price tag -- which would include plans for "more warships, more air wings, and a more expanded military presence around the world" -- is hardly an unfair attack. On the contrary, it's an accurate assessment of the GOP ticket's proposal.
As Rachel explained on the show this week, reflecting on the Republicans' proposed increase in defense spending, "People say there's no real difference between the candidates? Holy mackerel! When you're talking about the biggest pile of money in the whole world, the largest amount of discretionary money spent on anything by our government -- boy, howdy, is there a difference here. Boy, howdy, does this election matter."
Incidentally, how does Romney intend to pay for all of this additional defense spending? He refuses to tell anyone.
As for why the United States, which already spends more on our military than most of the major powers combined spend on their militaries, needs to increase defense spending by such an enormous amount, Romney hasn't exactly explained that, either. Apparently, Americans would be in for quite an education in early 2013.