By Bret Wilkins, Used with Permission from Common Dreams
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has a novel way to stop military-industrial complex profiteers from “bilking the American people”—and it’s actually over 80 years old.
In an article published Tuesday in The Atlantic, Sanders (I-Vt.) called for a revived Truman Committee—a World War II-era bipartisan congressional panel “designed to rein in defense contractors, closely oversee military contracts, and take back excessive payments.”
“America’s national priorities are badly misplaced,” the senator asserted. “Our country spends, with almost no debate, nearly $1 trillion a year on the military while at the same time ignoring massive problems at home. We apparently have unlimited amounts of money for nuclear weapons, fighter planes, bombs, and tanks. But somehow we can’t summon the resources to provide healthcare for all, childcare, affordable housing, and other basic needs.”
“The United States remains the world’s dominant military power,” the senator continued. “Alone, we account for roughly 40% of global military spending; the U.S. spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined, most of whom are allies. Last year, we spent more than three times what China spent on its military.”
Sanders noted that nearly half of the approximately $900 billion the U.S. will allocate for military spending this year “will go to a handful of huge defense contractors enjoying immense profits,” with many weapons companies profiting handsomely off sales to Ukraine, which is struggling to repel a two-year Russian invasion.
In what Sanders called a “particularly egregious example” of war profiteering, RTX Corporation—formerly Raytheon—has increased the price of its Stinger shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles by 600% to $400,000 since the early 1990s.
The senator continued:
It’s not just RTX. The stocks of American arms manufacturers have surged: Northrop Grumman’s share price increased 40% by the end of 2022, and Lockheed Martin’s by 37%. In 2022, the federal government awarded Lockheed Martin more than $45 billion in unclassified contracts. The company returned about one-quarter of that amount to shareholders through dividends and stock buybacks, and paid its CEO $25 million.
“There’s a name for all this: war profiteering. There’s a solution too,” Sanders stressed. “Congress should resurrect the Truman Committee.”
“These companies’ greed is not just fleecing the American taxpayer; it’s killing Ukrainians,” he contended. “A contractor padding its profit margins means that fewer weapons reach Ukrainians on the frontlines. Corporate greed is helping [Russian President] Vladimir Putin.”
Sanders highlighted the U.S. Department of Defense’s six consecutive failed audits, including the most recent one last December, in which the Pentagon was unable to fully account for nearly two-thirds of its $3.8 trillion in assets.
“It should therefore come as no surprise that defense contractors routinely overcharge the Pentagon—and the American taxpayer—by nearly 40-50%,” he wrote. “One company, TransDigm, overcharged by 4,451%.”
“But despite billions in fines for fraud or misconduct, the contracts never seem to dry up,” Sanders said. “That may be down to America’s system of legalized bribery: A share of the profits from these lucrative contracts will flow back to politicians who gladly accept millions in campaign contributions to make sure the defense budget is always flush.”
“According to the watchdog group OpenSecrets, defense contractors spent nearly $140 million lobbying the federal government last year,” he noted. “Millions of dollars more go directly to members of Congress in campaign contributions from companies, individuals, and political action committees linked to the defense industry.”
“Congress must put an end to this form of corporate welfare,” Sanders argued. “The best way to do that is to reinstate the Truman Committee on war profiteering so that we can end corporate greed in the defense industry. A windfall profits tax could help achieve this end as well.”
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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