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Joe Biden’s Military Budget Prioritizes Bombs and Planes over Schools and the Poor

biden 2023 budget

By Jake Johnson, a staff writer for Common Dreams. Used by Permission

Progressive lawmakers on Thursday voiced dismay that President Joe Biden is requesting a nearly $30 billion increase in U.S. military spending just months after the Pentagon failed its fifth consecutive audit, admitting it could not properly account for more than half of its trillions of dollars in assets.

Biden’s budget framework for fiscal year 2024 calls for $886 billion in overall military spending—up from the current level of $858 billion—with $842 billion going to the Pentagon. More than half of the $1.7 trillion of discretionary spending in Biden’s proposal is reserved for the military, which would get $170 billion for weapons procurement and $38 billion for nuke modernization.

Defense Newsreported that the president’s budget would boost spending on “new drones, combat jets, hypersonic missiles, and submarines.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement late Thursday that the president’s Pentagon blueprint requests “$26 billion more than Congress allocated in the previous budget—which itself was $63 billion more than the $773 billion the President requested for FY2023.”

“This is a never-ending cycle of increased funds without accountability,” said Jayapal. “There is simply no reason for taxpayers to continue to pay for outrageously high budgets rife with waste, fraud, and abuse. A recent CBO study confirmed that the Pentagon could cut $100 billion per year without compromising on national defense. This is long overdue. Progressives in Congress have been at the frontline of this fight for decades, and we will continue to push for sensible, targeted defense policy that prioritizes our national security over profit-hungry military contractors.”

Given that roughly half of the Pentagon’s annual budget has historically gone to military contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, the National Priorities Project (NPP) noted Thursday that around 25% of Biden’s total discretionary budget would likely wind up in the coffers of private companies.

“This military budget represents a shameful status quo that the country can no longer afford,” said Lindsay Koshgarian, NPP’s program director. “Families are struggling to afford basics like housing, food, and medicine, and our last pandemic-era protections are ending, all while Pentagon contractors pay their CEOs millions straight from the public treasury.”

Led by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), progressive lawmakers have been working for years to enact modest cuts to the Pentagon budget and redirect the savings toward healthcare, education, and other social investments.

But those efforts have repeatedly fallen short in the face of bipartisan opposition.

In 2022, Lee’s proposal to cut $100 billion off the military budget’s top line was defeated by an overwhelming vote of 78-350, with 141 House Democrats joining nearly every Republican in voting no. (NPP points out that $100 billion would be enough to send every U.S. household a $700 check or hire a million elementary school teachers.)

In a statement Thursday, Lee said she is “disappointed” that the president’s new budget “continues the regressive trend of increasing our bloated, wasteful defense budget year after year with little oversight.” Last month, Lee and Pocan reintroduced legislation that would reduce the U.S. military budget by $100 billion.

Top Republicans, meanwhile, signaled Thursday that they will try to pile more money on top of Biden’s historically large military budget request as they simultaneously pursue cuts to Medicaid and food benefits.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, lamented that Biden’s budget “proposes to increase non-defense spending at more than twice the rate of defense.”

“The president’s incredibly misplaced priorities send all the wrong messages to our adversaries,” said Rogers. “On the House Armed Services Committee, we are focused on building an NDAA that provides our warfighters with the capability and lethality to deter and, if necessary, defeat the grave threats facing our nation.”

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) sent a similar message, calling Biden’s military budget request “woefully inadequate” and a “serious indication of President Biden’s failure to prioritize national security.”

But analysts argue that ballooning military spending does little to bolster U.S. national security. As William Hartung of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft wrote Thursday, “We can make America and its allies safer for far less money if we adopt a more realistic, restrained strategy and drive a harder bargain with weapons contractors that too often engage in price gouging and cost overruns while delivering dysfunctional systems that aren’t appropriate for addressing the biggest threats to our security.”

“The Congressional Budget Office has crafted three illustrative options that could ensure our security while spending $1 trillion less over the next decade,” Hartung noted. “A strategy that incorporates aspects of these plans and streamlines the Pentagon budget in other areas could be sustained at roughly $150 billion per year less than current levels.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    Ben Berwick

    There’s a certain irony in people calling Biden a socialist/far left, considering how much money he and his Democrats will pour into military contracts. It’s also of no surprise that he could steer half the Budget in the direction of the military, and still get accused of not doing enough by hawkish Republicans.

  2. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Ange–I think it’s all but impossible, in the system we have, to have any sort of national profile in politics without having investments in, or receiving money from, weapons makers.

    Ben–Yes. Biden is, however, nothing more or less than a product of the same system that produces the “hawkish” Republicans.

    Last week, the excellent Meghna Chakrabarti did a program about “The Last Supper” of the defense industry. ( Just when we were promised a “peace dividend,” the consolidation of military suppliers led to ever-more-bloated Pentagon budgets and a further decimation of the nation’s civilian industrial base and social services. And that was before 9/11.

    In brief, after the Soviet Union dissolved and at a time when, as Norman Augustine recounts, China was a “non-factor,” the Pentagon called for the consolidation of the defense industry, not to cut costs, let alone re-direct this nation’s priorities. Rather, than they were trying to preserve themselves.

    I am not an expert on these matters. But I can’t help but to think that had we not injected the Pentagon with budgetary steroids, Putin would be just another ex-KGB officer.

  3. Avatar

    Biden knows he has to increase Pentagon spending (though less than inflation at only 3% increase) to get it through the GOP dominated House. Of course it would be better to go through Pentagon frills and eliminate all the waste, but of course all these contractors are in somebody’s congressional district. I think it has less to do with hawkishness than pigs eating at the trough.

  4. Avatar
    Barbara L. Jackson

    I agree with Troy. Republicans, and some Democrats have been taking from defense contractors their entire political careers. I do not think Republicans can be changed. Until we get a large majority of progressive Democrats in both the chambers of Congress we are stuck. President Eisenhower saw this coming when he talked about the military-industrial complex.

  5. Avatar

    It’s a shameful waste of money. But hey, let’s continue to feed the public the notion that ‘Murica is great while with its bloated military while its citizens struggle to afford healthcare and basic necessities.

    • Avatar

      Just today, in an AP article about the recent EPA proposed limits on ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water, mention was made of $2billion distributed to the states to help remove contaminants from public water systems. $2billion seems like a lot of money, until you compare it against more than $1trillion annually for defense/offense. This is no doubt a naively over-simplified reaction, but still that’s 500 times more, in a single year, spent prep-ing to do violence to other people and nations than ensuring Americans get to drink clean water (and the EPA acknowledges that public utilities will pass significant costs on to consumers for the upgrades needed to comply).

      Maybe if we didn’t rattle that sable so loudly we wouldn’t have so many enemies……, that’s just crazy talk.

  6. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    The USA keeps investing in self-destruction because of the unfortunate reality that the bully in the yard is likely to be the one with the least ability to use insight in moving forward. Brute force is all he has ever known. I remember that yard, a public school, and my horror as I attempted so hard to stay behind the bully, out of sight…

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Bruce Gerencser