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House military spending vote signals epic failure of leadership

Lawmakers in the thrall of the defense lobby show their cards in proposed budget increases. This one's a doozy.

Analysis | Military Industrial Complex

“The Pentagon budget is running amok!” charged Representative Barbara Lee during the recent floor debate on the National Defense Authorization Act. 

She and Rep. Mark Pocan were advocating an amendment to the massive spending bill that would roll back an earlier House Armed Services Committee decision to add $37 billion on top of the Biden Administration’s $813 billion military spending request. 

HASC Chairman Adam Smith, seeking to overrule his own committee, also rose to speak in favor of the Lee/Pocan amendment. It was, nonetheless, defeated, with the majority of House members falling all over themselves to shovel as much money to military contractors as they could.

How was this even possible? The July 13 vote was 277 to 151, and each of the 277 “nay” votes was an affront to common sense. Each one signaled an abdication of responsibility.

Some 140 million Americans are living in poverty or are scraping by with low-wage jobs. Many are struggling to put food on the table. Ordinary citizens are reeling from nine-percent inflation, dangerous new Covid mutations, inadequate health care and inequitable access to it. What’s more, we are counting on our government to address the climate crisis.

The rest of us must face the consequences of our choices, but these elected officials seem to operate in an alternate universe. Protected by their taxpayer-supported Cadillac healthcare plan, do our elected officials concern themselves with the 25 million Americans afflicted by “long Covid?” As Rep. Lee has said, “more guns and tanks are of no use to Americans without housing, education or health care.”   

Rhetoric aside, does anyone who voted “nay” honestly believe that the Department of Defense cannot adequately defend our country with the $813 billion that the Pentagon requested? That number is already higher, adjusted for inflation, than we were spending at the peaks of the Korean or Vietnam wars, or at the height of the Cold War. That amount exceeds the military spending of the next nine nations combined: China, Russia, India, the UK, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and South Korea. Even so, the House wants to add more. This is absolutely outrageous.

Somewhere along the way, 277 Representatives (you know who you are) forgot why their jobs exist. They are in thrall to military contractors, such as Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and Northrup-Grumman. Mega-corporations have become addicted to a raging river of federal money that pumps up their obscene profits, provides for generous executive bonuses, and bankrolls their campaign war chests.  

Shine a spotlight on this money trail and you’ll see how so many members of Congress came to pay more attention to military contractors than their own constituents — or the good of the nation.

These 277 representatives have failed the test of leadership. Real leaders ensure that their decisions benefit the group, but the 277 fail to consider the dangerous risks posed by such astronomical military investments in terms of fueling a new arms race with our rivals. Real leaders demand accountability; yet the Pentagon has never successfully passed an audit. Real leaders do not put their personal interests above all else, or make inexplicable and dangerous decisions in order to keep the campaign cash flowing. 

Americans look to Congress for true leadership and real help, and they are getting neither. We, the taxpayers, are forced to delegate budget decisions to Congress — decisions that are infamously opaque. But this betrayal of public trust will not go unnoticed. Members of Congress need to step up to the plate, consider the future, and start voting as if they cared about the rest of us.  

Image: Artem Avetisyan via shutterstock.com
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