- says General Peter Schoomaker, the Army Chief of Staff.
Request for Iraq: $440 billion [Update: this is a mistake by Marketplace, the original story said defense budget]
Annual cost of Christmas decorations: $8 billion in 2005.
Marketplace(American Public Media), April 26, 2006, last minute (27:21).
This final note - what do you think is more important to the average
American - paying for the war in Iraq or paying for plastic Santas?
General Peter Schoomaker, the Army Chief of Staff, claimed that we're
spending about the same amount on both! Schoomaker said
the last year alone Americans spent over 438 billion dollars on Christmas decorations.
He said he found the figure in a newspaper clipping.
He said that President Bush's request for Iraq amounted to only 440 billion dollars.
The man in charge of the military budget is off in his
estimate by over 5000% (yes, five thousand per cent).
This passed through Marketplace, a business program, without comment. Via Google I found the figure of $7.6 billion for Christmas decoration sales for 2004, or about $25 per person, and about $8 billion for 2005. Is the absence of fact checking normal for a business program?
The General's figure for ornaments is about $1500 per person (considerably more per family). He deduces from that that for an ordinary family, an expenditure of $1500 per person is not significant.
The General's point is that $440 billion is not a lot of money. On closer examination though, what he is saying is that if you can't tell the difference between $25 and $1500 then the budget looks fine.
The Chief of Staff, Army (CSA) serves as the senior military advisor to the SA in all matters and has responsibility for the effective and efficient functioning of Army organizations and commands in performing their statutory missions. Among the responsibilities of the CSA are--
(2) Assisting the SA in the SA's external affairs functions, including presenting and justifying
Army policies, plans, programs, and budgets to the Secretary of Defense, executive branch, and Congress.
This seems to me a pretty significant lapse of judgement. As far as I can tell there has been no correction on Marketplace.
Here's the source apparently:
Pauline Jelinek, AP.
This bogus figure now seems to be all over the place, carried by Jelinek's AP story.
Marketplace misquoted it a little, since in her version the $440 billion was supposed to be the defense budget rather than Iraq spending.