The Ultimate All-American Slush Fund

This piece was co-written by Julia Gledhill.

On June 3rd, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law that lifted the government’s debt ceiling and capped some categories of government spending. The big winner was — surprise, surprise! — the Pentagon.

Congress spared military-related programs any cuts while freezing all other categories of discretionary spending at the fiscal year 2023 level (except support for veterans). Indeed, lawmakers set the budget for the Pentagon and for other national security programs like nuclear-related work developing nuclear warheads at the Department of Energy at the level requested in the administration’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal — a 3.3% increase in military spending to a whopping total of $886 billion. Consider that preferential treatment of the first order and, mind you, for the only government agency that’s failed to pass a single financial audit! 

Even so, that $886 billion hike in Pentagon and related spending is likely to prove just a floor, not a ceiling, on what will be allocated for “national defense” next year. An analysis of the deal by the Wall Street Journal found that spending on the Pentagon and veterans’ care — neither of which is frozen in the agreement — is likely to pass $1 trillion next year.

Compare that to the $637 billion left for the rest of the government’s discretionary budget. In other words, public health, environmental protection, housing, transportation, and almost everything else the government undertakes will have to make do with not even 45% of the federal government’s discretionary budget, less than what would be needed to keep up with inflation. (Forget addressing unmet needs in this country.)

Read the full piece in TomDispatch.

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