I’m going to single out Josh Rogin here but I’ve seen tons of stories like this:

The more than $1 trillion in defense "savings" that the White House claims is based on a projection the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) put out last March, which found that war costs would top $1.7 trillion over the next ten years. However, that projection was never meant to accurately forecast the costs of the wars over the next decade. The report just took this year’s costs for Iraq and Afghanistan ($159 billion) and added inflation for every year in the future.

In other words, the CBO number was the projection if the United States kept the current number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan until 2020. However, nobody ever thought that was the plan.The CBO was required to do the math that way, as they do with all such projections.

Well, sure! But let’s follow this to its logical conclusion. If the CBO is projecting that the debt accumulated over the next decade is going to be $9-12 trillion but that number includes the $1.7 trillion of projected war costs that "nobody" thinks will actually spent, then your assumptions about the future size of the national are wildly overestimating the amount of debt we plan to accrue. You can’t use certain assumptions about future deficits to declare the national debt to be a problem then decry solutions based on those estimates as "fuzzy" because they contain cuts to plans "nobody ever thought" would come to fruition.

Put it this way: If the CBO projected a $100 trillion deficit next year, $99.7 trillion of which was for building a million-ton statue of Barack Obama on the moon, you can’t proceed to declare a national crisis of indebtedness but then also turn to those who would reduce the deficit by scrapping the deficit and say "well nobody thinks the golden Obama statue was really going to happen so that’s fuzzy." If that’s the case you need to adjust your baseline.

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