11/14/2007 11:44 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Mitt Romney is Thinking of a Number

Based on my analysis, America should commit to spend a minimum, a minimum of 4% of gross domestic product on our national defense.

- Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney celebrated Veterans Day -- the solemn anniversary of the end of the war that was supposed to end all wars -- at a helmet factory in New Hampshire. Business was booming, and Mitt promised to keep it that way. Then he went out to the parking lot and literally beat a plowshare into a sword.

Mitt wasn't just using the workers at Gentex, Manchester for a photo-op, either. He came with a message. A promise. A pledge: To cut veterans' hospitals, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare and spend the money on weapons.

Which weapons? Doesn't matter. Will they work? Not an issue. To fight whom? Who gives a shit. Just so long as they add up to at least 4% of the Gross Domestic Product.

Because freedom isn't free. According to this PowerPoint presentation that more or less projects directly out of Mitt Romney's butt, top-quality, retail freedom costs a minimum of 4% of GDP.

That's the number he always comes back to, rather than explaining what we could possibly spend it on.

(Which raises an interesting question: Is there any weapon we haven't bought already? Have we reached a point in our politics where there isn't a single weapons program for a Republican candidate to accuse a Democratic candidate of not embracing? Did the dog finally catch the car? Did we actually buy them all?)

(Zeppelins. What about nuclear zeppelins? That shoot x-ray lasers. Wait. What about an anti-zeppelin shield? Made out of rubies and steak.)

(Where's Edward Teller when we need him, to come up with some new death machine to procure? This would have never happened if he were still alive. Instead of, you know, roasting in hell.)

Our national condition -- permanent war -- leaves Romney without a magic gewgaw to say we have to buy. All he has left is a figure to insist on spending. Which actually suits him, when you think about it, because it's less like strategy and more like tithing.

But where did he get 4%? He keeps coming back to that exact number. It seems to be a fixed star in the Romney cosmos, unlike his positions on abortion, taxes, guns, immigration and civil rights. But why?

Let's see. On April 10th of this year, the Heritage Foundation issued a paper -- it's trillionth on the theme -- called:

"Four Percent for Freedom: Maintaining Robust National Security Spending"

And, that very same day, April 10th, Romney made a speech at the Bush Library and revealed his own magic number -- eerily, also 4% -- and said it was "based on my analysis."

It would appear that the extent of Romney's analysis is reading the Heritage Foundation's analysis. Which is okay, I guess. But it's a little like writing a doctoral thesis from Wikipedia.

Also, the Heritage Foundation's "analysis" isn't analysis at all. It's not reporting anything. It's just a ransom note: Spend a lot of money on weapons -- it doesn't really matter which ones -- or Shiites in Chinese space planes will pour across the Chosin reservoir and take our liberty away.

And girls will pull down our pants.

Now, you probably thought the way to come up with a figure to spend on defense was to consider either:

a) What you could afford
b) A threat


c) The cost of some weapon you wanted to buy

Which is why you don't work in a think tank.

The way you figure out what to spend on defense is to think of a number. In this case, four. Because that's the total times the trustees and staff of the Heritage Foundation have ever gotten laid.

And it's such a cute little number. Who could argue with 4%? We could probably get that back on our Discover Card, right?

Oh, but that's where you're wrong. According to the Heritage Foundation Backgrounder #2012, March 5th, 2007, the only way to get that kind of money is through tough "entitlement reform."

The implications for national defense are clear. Spending 4 percent of GDP for national defense will quickly become impossible unless Congress reforms Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid...

Okay. I mean, sure, that sounds stupid and cruel, cutting support for sick people, the old and the poor. But at least it's going to the troops, right? Right? Nope.

The Heritage Foundation is just getting warmed up:

... If retirees receiving Social Security benefits are asked to accept less generous indexing of those benefits, it is entirely appropriate to ask the same of military retirees...

... While the (military health care) system is clearly one of the most generous, it may be one of the most inefficient.

A key problem with the U.S. health care system overall is that it often precludes individuals from assuming at least some responsibility for making decisions about their care. The military health care system is more extreme in this regard because it encourages beneficiaries to treat health care as a free good or service and consume it on the basis of whim as opposed to need.

Structuring the military health care system as a defined contribution plan would give its 9.2 million participants greater freedom of choice...

Just so we're all clear: That's what Mitt Romney means when he says he wants to spend 4% of the GDP on defense. It's not just some random nonsense. What he means is he wants to cut Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare and restructure military health care as an HMO. So that Private Ryan -- that whiner -- stops consuming medical help "on the basis of a whim."

And I guess that's a policy. But you wouldn't want to go to a factory in a working class city and smile and shake hands and brag on it on Remembrance Day.

Unless there was nothing inside you but poison slime.


Romney's Paradox

Here's another problem with trying to blow "a minimum, a minimum" of 4% of America's GDP on arms: It may not be mathematically possible.

Let's say President Romney gets to the end of the fiscal year, looks at the GDP and realizes that he hasn't spent enough money on freedom. He immediately writes a check for another nuclear zeppelin. But when you calculate GDP, you include government spending. So the price of the zeppelin raises the GDP. And now Romney has to buy something else. Perhaps a tarp. But that raises the GDP, too.

When Romney adds 4% to the GDP, it goes up 4%, and then he has to add .4% to that, and it goes up again, and then he has to add .04%. And so on, forever, without reaching his goal.

Of defunding Social Security and giving the money to Boeing.