While everybody has been focused on — and bemoaning — the starkly partisan nature of the continuing impeachment saga, a stunning display of broad bipartisanship has just taken place in the House. It hardly made a dent in the wall-to-wall impeachment coverage. That’s too bad, because the recent bipartisan action in question here is an outrage.
I’m talking about the passage last Wednesday of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the massive legislation that funds all things military. This year’s Pentagon funding bill passed the House with a lopsided 377-48 vote (only 41 Democrats voted against). You can’t get much more bipartisan than that. And that’s a huge problem, especially because the military spending bill always garners such bipartisan support.
When it comes to feeding the voracious appetite of the military-industrial complex, there is almost zero daylight between our two ruling parties.
This year’s bill would authorize military spending of $738 billion for the coming year — that’s over $2 billion per day for war making. (Please note, I eschew the standard lingo “defense” spending because a military spending bill of this size is not simply for defending our country.) The amount represents an increase in war spending of $120 billion over the last Pentagon budget passed under Barack Obama.
I seem to recall that $120 billion is roughly the amount that free college would cost. You know, the proposal that has been met with a round of “but how will we pay for it?” criticism.
First among the “highlights” of the bill is the formal creation of the US Space Force, so that we can carry aggressive militarism into the new frontier, to boldly arm where no one has armed before … Some Democrats are calling the Space Force provision a victory because they were able to horse trade it for paid parental leave for federal workers. Parental leave is indeed a great idea, and since the federal government is the single largest employer in the country it could cause desirable ripple effects throughout the economy. But the militarization of space is one hell of a price to pay.
Pointing to the parental leave provision, the Democratic chair of the Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, called the NDAA “the most progressive defense bill we have passed in decades.” Local Congressman Ro Khanna said Smith’s statement was “Orwellian.” I’m with Ro.
Of even more concern perhaps is what is not in the bill. A provision to halt US support for Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen, an ongoing war crime, was stripped out of the final bill. Also removed was a provision that would have rolled back Trump’s transfer of military funds to pay for his stupid wall, as was language intended to constrain Trump from starting a war with Iran.
Some horse trading (which is defined as “negotiation accompanied by shrewd bargaining and reciprocal concessions”).
The bill now goes to the Senate where final approval is expected. The Senate vote will also be bipartisan. Last year’s NDAA (a mere $706 billion affair) passed with only 10 no votes.
I’ve long thought that the progressive movement does not fight hard enough against military spending. The Pentagon budget should face huge grassroots opposition every year. Rather than see our policy proposals routinely rejected with the “how will we pay for it?” mantra, we should be saying the same of Space Force and the Saudis’ atrocities. Considering the amount of taxpayer dollars being spent in this way, we should be marching in the streets of Washington and storming the Capitol Building.
President Dwight Eisenhower, the Army general who led the Allied forces in World War II, took issue with the ever-increasing war spending of his own era. In the wake of Josef Stalin’s death, Eisenhower saw an opening to tamp down the Cold War arms race between the US and the Soviet Union. In a national address he gave just three months into his first term, he said …
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed … This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense.
But massive war spending has become a way of life, sadly bipartisan to the max. Take a moment to speak out against the theft. Call your Senators, tell them to vote no on this NDAA. Tell them we need to feed those who hunger and clothe those who are cold.
Stop the theft.