By Ralph Nader / Nader.org
The Military Budget, which devours over half of the entire federal government’s operational expenditures, has been exempted by Biden and the Congressional Republicans from any reductions in the debt limit deal just reached. Also exempted are hundreds of billions of dollars in yearly diverse corporate subsidies to big business freeloaders.
Most of the cuts will slash the domestic programs that protect the health, safety and economic well-being of the American people. Cuts will also be made to the starved I.R.S. budget, further weakening its capacity to pursue super-rich tax cheats and giant corporate tax escapees. The GOP insisted on continuing its aiding and abetting of grand-scale tax evasion that fuels bigger deficits.
Biden also agreed not to restore any of Trump’s tax cuts on these same plutocrats and corporatists who refuse to pay for the undeclared wars of Empire from which they massively profit.
Welcome to America – Land of the Free, Home of the Brave sleepwalking its way through Sucker Land. It gets worse, People. Not only did the Pentagon, and indirectly the giant munitions corporations like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and General Dynamics get exempted, they were told by both the GOP and the Democrats to get ready, in the coming years, to receive additional tens of billions of dollars that the Generals and Biden didn’t even ask for. Biden wants to increase last year’s Pentagon budget by $48 billion, and the blank-check solons on Capitol Hill are inclined to match him. Except for a few dozen progressives, the support for this Niagara of dollars is bipartisan even though the Pentagon budget is and has been unauditable.
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Yet, since 1992, the Department of “Offense” has been violating the federal law that requires DOD to submit an auditable budget to Congress every year. Every Secretary of Defense has admitted this noncompliance and promised to correct it. Yet year after year the violation of law continues. No one can fathom the waste, redundance and gigantic cost overruns by the coddled big business military contractors with their government-guaranteed arrangements. Without Congressional investigatory hearings, without instructing the Congressional watchdog GAO (Government Accountability Office) to do its neglected, underfunded specialized auditing, and without giving voice to budget experts like William Hartung or knowledgeable military professionals like retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson and MIT Professor Emeritus Ted Postol, the Pentagon has gone unchecked. The two-Party duopoly has turned Congress into a giant shovel of unaudited money for the military to secure misguided bragging rights for your Representatives and Senators back home about being “strong on defense” rather than watchdogs over your tax dollars.
Meanwhile, back home, schools crumble, existing public transit is dangerously antiquated and in need of repair, as are bridges, roads, clinics, ports, airports, public drinking water systems and waste management facilities. Care for the public lands and national parks suffers massively due to deferred maintenance. Funding to deal with land erosion, toxic water and air pollution is in short supply.
The failure of Congress to provide support for desperately needed programs such as Head Start and other programs to reduce child hunger, homelessness and poverty involving 80 million people, either without health insurance or under-insured, is beyond shameful. Why is the United States, the richest nation on the planet, providing less to its citizens than Western European countries and Canada? Answer: The runaway power of Big Business over public budgets!
Moreover, we are woefully unprepared for the coming pandemics, as we were for COVID-19, and for worsening natural disasters of climate violence perpetuated by the giant fossil fuel companies (e.g. Chevron and Exxon Mobile) that control Congress.
But hey, our war machine can remotely vaporize a cluster of young men idly standing on a dusty road in Yemen with a drone operator pushing buttons in Virginia and Nevada. Over a trillion and a half dollars will be spent on upgrading our nuclear bombs with the same amount being wasted on strategically useless F-35 fighter planes.
And remember citizens, when the government talks war, organizes for war, has military bases in a hundred countries and provokes belligerence, wars are likely to happen.
Not even the money spent on one F-35 is being devoted to waging peace, initiating ceasefire negotiations and launching efforts for international arms control treaties as occurred under former presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
There is no Department of Peace, and the State Department is more bellicose than the Pentagon in its war of words. We’ve been waiting for Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) who has yet to put a bill in the hopper to create such a department – a purported priority of his since long before his election to Congress.
One can hope that the Pentagon Brass – the generals and admirals, some of whom anticipate retiring to become consultants to, or executives of, the corporate weapons industry, would teach the rampaging Congressional Yahoos a lesson in patriotic restraint. Congress must learn to say “no thanks” to more money than requested and use those funds to help save hundreds of thousands of lives in America lost every year to toxic pollution, preventable negligence in hospitals, the opioid epidemic, tobacco, alcohol, occupational hazards and more.
Absent that prospect, the dozens of small citizen peace advocacy groups and organizations such as Veterans for Peace should establish a national “Rein in and Audit the Military Budget and Save American Lives Day” to spark a nationwide grassroots mobilization focused on Congressional offices on Capitol Hill and in the states. There is no time to waste!
Fill the reception rooms of Members of Congress with citizens for peace and justice for a change. Let our elected officials start hearing the rumble from an aroused people conveying irresistible arguments backed by irrefutable evidence. Tell them to stop the arms race and pursue arms control treaties before autonomous weapons of mass destruction and miscalculations lead to World War III – the final world war.
Ralph Nader is an American political activist, author, lecturer, and attorney noted for his involvement in consumer protection, environmentalism, and government reform causes. The son of Lebanese immigrants to the United States, Nader attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School.