The Four Percent for Freedom movement – an unofficial cadre of defense analysts that advocate pegging the budget at 4 percent of GDP – are on the comeback now that Mitt Romney signed on as the front man. Those opposed, like your humble team of analysts at The Will and the Wallet, point out in response that there’s nothing strategic about the size of the economy. But that hasn’t deterred the Progressive Policy Institute from taking on Four Percent for Freedom directly with a defense savings plan based on a 3 percent of GDP floor.
Unfortunately, the difference between 3 and 4 percent of GDP is still just a number. And it’s especially interesting that PPI opted for this metric given that it sees “Rule 1” of defense budgeting as “Don’t let fiscal politics trump U.S. strategy.” PPI is positively right that defense spending should contribute to debt reduction, and 3% of GDP may even neatly fit with their preferred strategy today, but what happens if our economy and our national security don’t move in lockstep forevermore?
Odd as much of this report’s construct is, nothing should take away from its logical cornerstone: “Everything—entitlements, tax revenues, domestic spending and defense—must be on the table.” That sentiment is essential for putting the country back on a sustainable fiscal path and, while we come out at a somewhat different place on defense budgets, it’s important to keep sight of the common truth.
* On a more parochial note, we were interested to see our Leaner and Meaner article binned by PPI as left-of-center while the Rivlin-Domenici defense recommendations are billed as centrist. Close readers of the two documents will see that they’re almost identical, a reflection of the fact that we wrote them both. As proud pragmatists, we’ll cozy up to the Rivlin-Domenici “centrist” label and let the left-of-center moniker slide.