On Monday, the Pentagon received even more money than it had asked for. Funding war is something that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on
When Bernie Sanders released his much anticipated healthcare plan last week, countless pundits and members of Congress asked why the government should pass such a bill given its potential cost. Now that Congress on the verge of sending a record-setting $700bn Pentagon spending bill to Trumps desk, you can bet those deficit scolds will be nowhere to be found.
On Monday evening, the Senate passed in bipartisan fashion a policy bill that set the parameters for military spending in 2018 that tops $700bn, including tens of billions in spending for wars Trump has been expanding in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Amazingly, the bill far exceeds even the increase in spending that the Trump administration was asking for, and as the Associated Press reported, it would put the US armed forces on track for a budget greater than at any time during the decade-plus wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Only eight senators voted against the bill three Republicans and five Democrats. It passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. Even in a time of hyper-partisanship, you can always count on Congress to come together and spend hundreds of billions of dollars to build weapons and bombs for killing people overseas, even as our infrastructure crumbles at home and thousands of people die each year without healthcare.
At the same time, Republicans in Congress are also engaged in a last-ditch effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act before their deadline to do so expires on 30 September. If they succeed, they will likely force millions of Americans to lose their health insurance, and they will make the case that they did so in part to save money and lower the deficit. The Republicans shamelessness, as always, knows no bounds.
But why wouldnt Democrats put up even a modicum of a fight against this gargantuan National Defense Authorization Act? Given that Trump has been ramping up US wars across the Middle East, civilian casualties have been exploding, and the administration cant even give a legal explanation for its strikes in Syria, youd think this would be a good time for Democrats to take a stand against the Forever War posture now engulfs the Trump administration as it did the two administrations before him.
Only five Democratic senators voted against the bill. All of them Gillibrand, Sanders, Wyden, Leahy and Merkley deserve to be commended, but its embarrassing that so many others would go ahead and vote for this.
Sadly, we know why. Giant defense contractors call every single state in the United States home, where they who have factories that make the fighter jets, aircraft carriers, and bombs that the Pentagon has an insatiable appetite for.
They lavish congressmen with campaign contributions and then attempt to terrify everyone that jobs (ie building bombs that kill people) will dry up if Congress doesnt increase military spending each year.
The difference in the response from both Congress and political pundits when it comes spending on our military and on domestic programs could not be more stark. Any government program meant to help poor people get food, housing or healthcare are analyzed to pieces by deficit trolls in countless op-eds and cable television appearances, as if our economy will suddenly collapse if the government spends just a tiny percentage more to help our most unfortunate.
But when it comes to spending money on military bases overseas and already rich defense contractors, no amount of extra money is ever too high.
What makes it all the more hypocritical and shameful that the Pentagon is the agency where the most waste exists by far when it comes to government spending. The Washington Post produced a must-read report last year showing that the Pentagons own auditors could save a mind boggling $125bn over a five year period without cutting any programs, given all of the duplicative and unnecessary spending that plagues the defense department.
Yet as the Post reported at the time, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results and then the Pentagon imposed secrecy restrictions on the data making up the study, which ensured no one could replicate the findings.
The story was quickly forgotten, and now, like clockwork, the Pentagon receives more money than it even asked for.
Just remember this vote the next time some congressman or political prognosticator on television says that the United States cant afford to help its most needy. Theres always plenty of money for bombs, but when it comes to healthcare or anything else, what theyre saying is youre out of luck.