On Wednesday night the House passed the debt ceiling deal reached by President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and the winner is – the Pentagon!
While the rest of the federal discretionary budget is slated to be frozen at roughly this year’s level, the Pentagon and related spending on nuclear weapons at the Department of Energy will be exempted from the freeze. Military spending will be set at $886 billion, the amount requested by the Biden administration for fiscal year 2024. This represents an historic high – hundreds of billions of dollars more than at the peaks of the Korean or Vietnam wars or the height of the Cold War, adjusted for inflation.
An analysis of the new agreement by the Wall Street Journal indicates that if the deal goes through, the Pentagon and veteran’s spending – neither of which will be subject to the freeze – will top $1 trillion, while all of the remaining discretionary programs will be left to split $637 billion. This will mean that public health, environmental protection, nutrition, housing, transportation and most of the other major functions of the government will have to fight over less than 40% of the discretionary budget. This won’t be nearly enough to account for inflation, much less meet the many unmet needs of the majority of American households.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We are dramatically overspending on the Pentagon relative to our genuine defense needs. The challenges posed by China are primarily political and economic, not military. And on the military front the United States spends about three times as much on its military as China does, and has major allies in East Asia that can shoulder part of the burden of deterring Beijing, from Australia to Japan to South Korea. The U.S. stockpile of nuclear warheads is 13 times as large as China’s, and the U.S. Navy has far more firepower. If China is the Pentagon’s “‘pacing threat,” it’s time to slow the pace of America’s military buildup and focus on other urgent national needs.
Read the full piece in Tribune News Service.