THE DEFENSE BUDGET….Lorelei Kelly wants to make sure we all know just how massive the post-9/11 defense budget has gotten — even when you don’t count the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Last week, both houses of Congress approved the conference report on the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill, H.R. 1585. The bill includes $506.9 billion for the Department of Defense and the nuclear weapons activities of the Department of Energy….The amount of Cold War lard is truly astonishing, especially given the fact that the military itself is hollering from the hilltops that it can’t be responsible for all of our national security needs and that today’s problems just don’t have military (read “Cold War weapons systems”) answers.

….Keep in mind, today’s defense spending is 14% above the height of the Korean War, 33% above the height of the Vietnam War, 25% above the height of the “Reagan Era” buildup and is 76% above the Cold War average

In fact, since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the annual defense budget — not including the costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan — has gone up 34%. Including war costs, defense spending has gone up 86% since 2001.

Now you know.