The military’s budget is being massively expanded this year, and nobody is really sure why. The answer seems to be “because we can.” Republicans in the Senate have decided that the Pentagon should receive even more money than Trump’s hawkish White House wanted, and is giving the military things it never requested and does not need. The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act approves a budget of $696 billion, an annual increase of $80 billion. Meanwhile, Republicans are out to gut aid programs for low-income Americans.
So why aren’t “deficit hawks” like Paul Ryan questioning where this money will come from? We’re ballooning the deficit to kill people, and for what, exactly? The Pentagon does not need the money. For example, the budget has allowed for 94 new F-35 Lightning fighter jets. Via Bloomberg:
The measure would authorize 94 F-35 jets made by Lockheed Martin Corp., 24 more than requested by the president and seven more than the House agreed to in its version of the bill.
Oh, by the way, the budget is also illegal. Why is that? Well, a law passed in 2011 only allows $549 billion in base-related expenses. The United States has 800 military bases and hundreds of thousands of soldiers occupying nations around the globe. The budget as it stands recommends $640 billion:
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said during floor debate that his panel ignored the budget constraints set in law because responding to national security challenges requires more resources.
“The threats to our national security have not been more complex, severe, or daunting at any time in the past seven decades — and our job is to ensure we have a military capable of meeting those threats,” McCain said. “For too long, we have locked ourselves into making strategic decisions based on budget realities. It is time to start making budget decisions based on strategic realities.”
That’s right. Republicans think we should make “budget decisions based on strategic realities,” completely ignoring military-related deficits, in order to pay for jets (and other stuff) the military never asked for and does not need.
Or, maybe, the massive lobbying arm of the defense industry has more to do with it. They’ve already spent tens of millions in 2017 alone to buy politicians and influence, and there’s no slowing down.
these two things are unrelated pic.twitter.com/3PGzZzrLj9
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) September 19, 2017
What else could that money pay for? Great question. Common Dreams has a great perspective on the true cost of needless military spending:
Put another way, with a $700 billion military budget, the U.S. would be spending more than three times as much as China on its military, and 10 times as much as Russia. According to [the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute], the U.S. already accounts for more than a third of all military spending.
Yes, in the entire world. The United States, with about 1/25 of the world’s population, is responsible for over 1/3 of the military spending worldwide. Who are we preparing to fight, exactly?
Or with $80 billion a year, you could make public colleges and universities in the U.S. tuition-free. In fact, Sanders’s proposal was only estimated to cost the federal government $47 billion per year.
If the additional military spending over the next 10 years instead went to pay off student debt, it could come close to wiping it out entirely.
Yet those kind of ideas, or universal healthcare coverage, are dismissed out-of-hand by Republicans. Maybe that’s because the everyday people who would benefit most don’t pay as well as insurance and military lobbyists. Maybe that’s because most politicians, but especially Republicans, are more invested in personal careers and success than they are in their country.
Eight members of the Senate voted against the bill: Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bob Corker (R-TN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Ron Wyden (D-OR)