During the January 22 broadcast of his Newsradio 850 KOA show, host Mike Rosen falsely claimed that defense spending decreased “as a fraction of gross domestic product” (GDP) under President Jimmy Carter. In fact, military spending increased under each of the final two Carter-era federal budgets as a percentage of the GDP.
During a discussion with controversial conservative author and speaker Dinesh D'Souza on the January 22 broadcast of his Newsradio 850 KOA show, host Mike Rosen erroneously asserted that the U.S. defense budget “decreased as a fraction of gross domestic product” during Jimmy Carter's presidency. In fact, Congress increased military spending in the second half of Carter's presidency as a percentage of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP), marking the beginning of a trend Rosen wrongly attributed to Carter's successor, Ronald Reagan.
After agreeing with D'Souza's contention that "[f]rom the left's point of view, Vietnam was ... a foreign policy success," Rosen asserted, "[A]fter Vietnam, we started cutting back on defense spending as a share of gross domestic product, and that wasn't reversed until Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980." When a caller later challenged Rosen, declaring that Carter had increased the defense budget during his presidency, Rosen emphasized that he had been talking about defense spending “as a fraction of gross domestic product ... It decreased as a fraction of gross domestic product.” Rosen then insisted that his statement was “factual” when the caller said, “That's possible. I'll have to look it up.”
Contrary to Rosen's contention, statistics from the Office of Management and Budget clearly show that while federal defense spending as a percentage of the GDP did, in fact, decrease following the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, defense spending as a percentage of the GDP increased throughout Carter's presidency -- from 4.7 percent in fiscal year 1979 (October 1, 1978, to September 30, 1979), to 4.9 percent in FY 1980. Congress again increased military spending from 4.9 percent GDP to 5.2 percent GDP from FY 1980 to FY 1981 (the final budget approved during the Carter administration). Over the entire course of Carter's presidency, spending for national defense increased from 4.7 percent GDP to 5.2 percent GDP.
As The New York Times (accessed through the Nexis database) reported on June 18, 1980, the last year of Carter's presidency:
President Carter and Secretary of Defense Harold Brown have repeatedly argued for steady, sustained growth with the rate of military spending pegged to the gross national product, which is the sum of the nation's goods and services. In March, however, they revised their earlier projection and raised the military spending target from slightly over 5 percent of G.N.P. this year to 5.7 percent by 1985.
Defense spending authority increased overall under Carter, rising by 2.8 percentage points from 1980 to 1981, the final budget during Carter's tenure, marking a trend that continued under the Reagan administration.
As Colorado Media Matters has noted, this is not the first time Rosen has distorted Carter's presidential record. On August 18, 2006 -- three days after asserting, “I'm awfully careful about my facts” -- Rosen criticized a federal district court decision declaring the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and then falsely claimed that Carter, in a presidential signing statement accompanying the Act, “said he's not ceding any of his constitutional power.” In fact, Carter's 1978 signing statement said no such thing.
On his August 31, 2006, broadcast, responding to Colorado Media Matters, Rosen said he made a “mistake” and had “incorrectly recalled a conversation [he] had with [law professor] Robert Turner” regarding the FISA signing statement.
From the January 22 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show:
D'SOUZA: [...] From the left's point of view, Vietnam was not only a foreign policy success, it was a political success and a huge cultural success.
ROSEN: It's a good point. And on the military front, after Vietnam, we started cutting back on defense spending as a share of gross domestic product, and that wasn't reversed until Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980.
D'SOUZA: That's very true. Now, interestingly, talking about Reagan and his predecessor Carter, I think that the seeds of 9-11 were sown in a way by liberal foreign policy. If you think about it, [Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini was the first, was the inventor of Islamic radicalism in the modern sense -- the first time the radical Muslims captured a major state. Khomeini was the first guy to call America “The Great Satan,” to call for martyrdom and jihad against us. Well, how did we get Khomeini? Carter basically pulled the Persian rug out from our ally the Shah. Why? Because the left went and whispered in Carter's ear, “You believe in human rights, we can't support this guy, he's a dictator,” and so we encouraged the Shah to abdicate. And Carter, in trying to get rid of the bad guy, ended up getting the worse guy.
CALLER: Hello, first I'd like to make a correction. Carter increased the defense budget every year he was president.
ROSEN: I said as a fraction of gross domestic product.
ROSEN: It decreased as a fraction of gross domestic product.
CALLER: That's possible. I'll have to look it up.
ROSEN: It's factual.
CALLER: OK. But he increased it even after inflation.
ROSEN: As a fraction of GDP, it declined.
CALLER: OK, fine.
ROSEN: And as a fraction of the budget, it declined as well.