Massive war budget increase sails through Congress as social programs stall

Joe Biden is expected to imminently sign into law a staggering $770 billion military budget framework for the 2022 fiscal year after the Senate voted overwhelmingly last week in favor of this year’s “National Defense Authorization Act.” The bill authorizes a roughly 5 percent increase in military spending from last year’s budget and $25 billion more than the Biden administration requested. It passed 89 to 10 in the Senate and 363 to 70 in the House of Representatives.

The NDAA allocates massive sums of money to the Pentagon to wage wars of aggression around the world and prepare for even more devastating conflicts. Nearly $7.1 billion, for example, is set aside for military initiatives targeting China as part of the “Pacific Deterrence Initiative” provision of the bill. The U.S. military budget is at least three times the size of China’s and U.S. military bases encircle China’s territory — in reality the Pentagon’s initiatives have nothing to do with “deterrence.” 

Ironically, this legislation passed with ease and overwhelming bipartisan support during the same week that Biden announced the Build Back Better bill was unlikely to make it out of Congress before 2022. A few days later, right-wing Democratic Senator Joe Manchin pulled the plug on negotiations altogether. The Senate appears unable to allocate the $1.75 trillion called for in the already-diluted social spending bill on the false pretext that doing so would be “fiscally irresponsible.” The cost for many of the Build Back Better provisions are calculated on a 10-year basis – if that standard was applied to the NDAA that would make the war budget more than four times as expensive as the social program budget.

As we enter the third year of the pandemic, working people are clamoring for stimulus checks, rent relief, action to save the climate and more. The ongoing threat of COVID-19 — coupled with a housing crisis, widespread financial insecurity, and the ever-worsening climate crisis — has left the working class in deeply precarious situations. It is clear that the working class is more concerned with survival than new Navy ships, the latest missiles or the deadliest bombs. The people are still demanding the help that the Biden administration promised would come swiftly after inauguration, but has yet to be felt.

The millionaires running Congress prefer to point fingers at China and inflate their military power than hold themselves accountable to meeting the needs of the people. When discussing the military, the question of “how will we pay for this?” which so often accompanies demands for social spending, flies out the window. The money for violence and war always materializes in U.S. capitalism, plus $25 billion more.

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