The bloated defense budget easily goes by, but Congress argues over safety net programs


Joe Biden once said, “Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value.” Over the past week, Congress has shown depressingly that the President was up to something.

Assuming the defense budget doesn’t go down, that would mean nearly $ 8 trillion for the Pentagon over 10 years.

Although the Democrats are entangled over a $ 3.5 trillion 10-year reconciliation package – and Republicans are unanimous against it – the House of Representatives passed a package of 768 goodies on Sept. 23 without resentment or controversy Billions of dollars for the Pentagon.

Assuming the defense budget does not go down (and it rarely does), that would mean nearly $ 8 trillion for the Pentagon over 10 years. That would be more than double the cost of Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, which was billed as the historic expansion of America’s social safety net.

Even in 2021, while Congress is considering historic progressive laws, Washington values ​​defense dollars – for wars America should not and probably will not wage – above the needs of the American people.

This is a bipartisan problem. The House of Representatives Defense Bill, which contains nearly $ 25 billion more than Biden originally proposed for the Pentagon, was backed by 181 Democrats. And an amendment by Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc. To cut the Department of Defense budget by 10 percent lost by a margin of 86-332.

Weeks after America humiliatingly ended its 20-year war in Afghanistan – at a cost of more than $ 2.3 trillion – both parties don’t seem to be getting more money into the Pentagon’s coffers fast enough.

How that money is spent – and on what defense systems – should be a scandal in itself.

For example, the House Bill would approve the purchase of 85 F-35 fighter jets, an aircraft so plagued by cost overruns and operational problems that the current chairman of the House Armed Service Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., it’s called a “rat hole”. The aircraft is estimated to cost more than $ 1.5 trillion during its lifespan and was previously labeled a “procurement error” by the Pentagon official responsible for acquiring weapons systems.

The House bill would also allow the Air Force to purchase 24 F-15 EX jets, twice as many as required by the Pentagon, an institution not exactly known for its frugality when asking Congress for money.

William Hartung, director of the Weapons and Security Program Center for International Politics, points to another multi-billion dollar boondoggle in the House of Representatives bill: “A new ballistic ICBM, known in the Pentagon as Ground-Based Strategic Deterrence (GBSD).” ICBMs are particularly dangerous because, as Hartung notes, “the president would only have a few minutes to get them into crisis, increasing the risk of accidental nuclear war due to a false alarm.” The Biden administration increased the budget for the weapons system by 1.4 billion $ 2.6 billion, and the GBSD is estimated to cost at least $ 264 billion over its lifetime.

Is preparing for war with China more important than the $ 200 billion that would be invested in creating a universal preschool program?

All of these expenses seem to be worth it, says Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, the senior Republican on the Armed Service Committee, because the bill is “laser-focused on preparing our military to face conflict with China.”

Aside from the fact that the chances of US conflict with China are very unlikely, what does spending $ 768 billion to prevent a slim possibility say about America’s priorities as a nation?

Is preparing for war with China more important than the $ 200 billion that would be invested as part of the budget adjustment package to create a universal preschool program that will benefit more than 5 million American children and the average American family $ 13,000 a year would save?

Will building a new weapon that actually increases the likelihood of accidental atomic swaps be of greater national benefit than making the United States the last wealthy country on earth to introduce a national paid sick leave program?

How about two years of free community college? Or extend the child allowance? Or make sure that no low-income or middle-class American family spends more than 7 percent of their income on childcare? Or lower prescription drug prices and lower healthcare costs for ordinary Americans?

Above all, it is more important to face a nation that does not threaten the American people – or build a new generation of ground-based atomic bombs – of greater importance than preparing the United States for the aftermath of more deadly hurricanes, the heat waves and the utmost punishing weather events related to global warming?

If you asked Americans what they prefer, there probably wouldn’t be much debate. A new survey by the Eurasia Group Foundation this week shows that “twice as many Americans want to cut defense budgets than they want to increase”. The main reason Americans hold this view is because they want the money to be redirected to domestic priorities.

Twice as many Americans want to cut the defense budget as they want to increase it.

In short, they want the nation’s budget to reflect its values.

Eighteen months after a pandemic that killed 700,000 Americans – or 1 in 476 of our fellow citizens – one could imagine that the nation’s leaders are laser-sharp on strengthening the country’s defenses at home rather than remaining fixated on security threats Abroad that will probably never come. In fact, one might even conclude that our entire way of thinking about national security should change – to reflect the internal challenges that put Americans at risk and undermine our quality of life.

However, Washington seems intent on preparing for the wrong fight.

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