U.S. defense expenditure, in billions of inflation-adjusted dollars since 1980. It’s much higher now than during Reagan’s cold-war buildup.
(From Mother Jones, using Congressional Budget Office data. More charts there.)
An interesting, and powerful chart. But how would this look if we used spending as a percentage of GDP (which has also increased since 1980)? The underlying fact is that we still spend about the same as we did when we faced another rival superpower. But by what proportion?
I am happy to answer some of your questions (and maybe a few you didn’t ask). The post-9/11 average for base defense spending is about 4 percent of GDP, roughly the post-WWII average. Fifty years ago, defense spending made up around half (48 percent) of total expenditures, while entitlement spending accounted for about 25 percent. Next year entitlements will be 60 percent of the total budget and defense will be less than 20.
This is a great example of how better numbers are often, well, better. The chart above shows defense spending as increasing about 60% from 9/11 to 2010 (from about $400 to $700). If dieyounglivefast is right (and I believe he is), then defense spending has actually decreased about 40% (from 48% of spending to about 20% of spending). What this also means is that military spending has increased, in party because total government spending has increased. The previous graph did not convey this.