The US Army's Chief of Staff expressed outrage Wednesday that America spends more money on Christmas decorations than on defense.
Gen. Peter Schoomaker was testifying before a Congressional budget committee, fighting for the Bush administration's $440 billion defense budget.
"Here's what is amazing to me. ... What do you think we spent on plastic Santa Clauses and tinsel and all this stuff for Christmas last year ... the holidays?'' Schoomaker asked during a meeting with reporters. "The answer is $438.5 billion, roughly equivalent to the defense budget.'"
But the general's numbers are a bit off.
The $440 billion the White house is requesting doesn't include the cost of the war in Iraq. As for the $438 billion figure he got from a newspaper clipping quoting the National Retail Association, it's actually $435 and includes the Thanksgiving holiday season.
Despite the inaccuracies, one the the general is right about is that our defense spending is at the "lowest percent ... that we've ever spent in wartime."
The current budget represents less than 4% of GDP. During World War II the number was closer to 33%.
"I've told Congress this,'' he said to a defense writers group. "I've told everybody this: What's the problem?''
"I mean I don't get it,'' Schoomaker said. "We've got a lot to be thankful for in this country and we've got a lot to lose. And one of the first responsibilities of government is to defend the country. The Constitution says that.''