Good News! The War Department's Bloated, Wasteful Budget Failed Yesterday
Progressive senators Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Merkley, Ed Markey and Ron Wyden were followed by every Republican but Susan Collins. The laughably mistitled National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) failed 45-51, meaning 15 voted away from passage. It will probably pass after some compromises by Schumer, who was whining cynically today about Republicans refusing to support the troops. But listen to Bernie talking about why he planned to voted-- and now has-- against it.
Alan Grayson has always run as a peace candidate and always followed through as a member of the House. Today he's running against one of Congress' most virulent war mongers, Marco Rubio. Yesterday, Grayson told me that every time he reads about the NDAA, "I hear echoes of Susan Powter shouting, 'Stop the Insanity!' Three-quarters of a trillion dollars a year? Really? The truth is that if we spent half as much, we’d be just as safe."
One of the savviest of the Blue America candidates when it comes to foreign and defense policy is San Fernando Valley progressive Shervin Aazami. "Earlier this month Stephen Semler, who is a co-founder of the progressive foreign policy think tank Security Policy Reform Institute, released a jaw-dropping data graphic," he told me last night. "That graphic showed that the five biggest defense contractors-- Lockheed, Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics-- received 2.8x more funding in a single year than the total funds allotted for climate action in the Build Back Better (or barely) Act. What is even more unconscionable is the fact that the TOTAL defense budget, when extrapolated over a decade, is fourteen times greater than what Build Back Better sets aside for climate programs. Let that sink in. The Pentagon-- which has a larger carbon footprint than 140 industrialized nations-- takes the lion's share of our annual budget while corporatists within the Democratic Party keep crying about the 'deficit' and 'inflation and 'fiscal accountability' when it concerns spending on social programs but NEVER complain about any of these things when it comes to defense spending or corporate welfare. Over half our defense budget goes to private defense contractors whose only goals are endless military quagmires that maximize their profits. The Pentagon hasn't undergone a thorough audit in years-- why doesn't any self-proclaimed 'fiscal hawk' ever complain about the endless money pit that is our military industrial complex? It is utterly outrageous. I'm glad the NDAA failed. I've said this since day one of launching our progresive campaign-- budgets reflect values. I want a budget that provides universal child care and paid family leave; that cancels student debt and makes colleges tuition-free; that guarantees healthcare coverage and access under single-payer Medicare for All; that stops criminalizing homelessness and ensures housing is a human right; and that makes all the necessary investments to bring renewable energies to scale to combat climate catastrophe and create millions of living wage jobs in the process. That's what 'security' looks like to me-- not endless wars for profit that only entrench America's sordid legacy of imperialism and militarism."
We're just getting know the two newest candidates endorsed by Blue America, L.A. congressional candidate Daniel Lee and Iowa Senate candidate Glenn Hurst. Their answers to the question about the NDAA are helpful in understanding their perspectives on governance. Daniel Lee told us that "Blindly approving the National Defense Authorization Act while the United States Military continues to be the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the world is an outright crime. We have the most advanced fighter jets in the history of the world and our supply outpaces the nearest other country, China, by 4 to 1. Yet it is the fuel for these supersonic totems to the military industrial complex that unironically fuel the acceleration of the climate crisis. We must become a nation that adopts a peacetime posture. One that invests in the well being of people rather than that of weapons manufacturers. A country that when asked how funds should be distributed or a budget should be allocated responds by making sure that the housing, health and safety needs of our residents are met now and that our future on this planet is assured."
Meanwhile, Dr. Hurst said that "The National Defense Authorization Act met it's annual opposition from Sen. Bernie Sanders, but this year it is especially poignant. It punctuates the Democratic led government's failure to elevate an American agenda for the people. When corporate welfare bloats the NDAA and spending on Jeff Bezo's space hobby are prioritized in this bill but Medicare expansion, meaningful childcare assistance, and paid time-off for caregivers are gutted from budget reconciliation, the American people are left wondering who in Washington cares about their needs. With every passing day, our legislators are letting slip away the historic opportunity to help Americans address the real problems of poverty, opportunity, and equity; the problem of injustice."
Staten Island progressive challenger Brittany DeBarros comes from a patriotic military family and she is a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan where she learned that "we cannot culture safety ad security with violence." She came home "feeling betrayed by a system that covered up greed and corruption with a veneer of fighting for freedom." I couldn't think of abetter candidate to ask about last night's defeat of the NDAA. She told me that "politicians and the Pentagon have been allowed to get away with wildly irresponsible budgets for decades under the guise of national security and supporting the troops. Most people don’t know that half the budget goes to corporations while tens of thousands of active duty military families make so little they struggle to eat. We need leaders willing to call out this corruption and promote real accountability." I have no doubt that by replacing a cycle of conservative Republicans and conservative Democrats as the Representaive from her district, she will be exactly that leader. If you'd like to contribute to her campaign-- as well as Shervin Aazami's Jason Call's and Daniel Lee's campaigns... please click on the 2022 Blue America congressional thermometer above and contribute what you can. And if you want to contribute to our Senate candidates-- Alan Grayson (FL) and Glenn Hurst (IA) instead of a thermometer... here's the link.
And early this morning, Washington state progressive Jason Call explained how he sees this mess: "The first thing I want to comment on is that Bernie does very well what most electeds don’t do at all, and that is give an honest, no bullshit assessment of the legislation and why he’s voting the way he’s voting. (As Bernie has stated, he doesn’t tolerate bullshit terribly well, which is amazing since he’s been neck deep in it for over 30 years.) Most politicians will not give their votes this kind of attention, especially if their vote is 'controversial,' as is the case with these few Democratic no voters who are bucking not only the military industrial complex, but also the Biden administration and the Democratic status quo and made all the more stark by aligning with the GOP. Of course the GOP voted in lockstep with McConnell’s directive because that’s what Stepford Wives do. They claim it’s over some amendments they wanted, but guaranteed it’s also an attempt to make Biden look weak because that’s just the shitty politics they play. As to the principled no vote by Bernie, Merkley, Warren, and Wyden (um, no Reverend Warnock, what?) of course they made the right choice for the right reasons. The bill is going to pass as soon as the GOP decides to stop pissing their pants, it’s going to be yet another massive giveaway to corporate interests tied up in the war machine, and here’s the thing-- there’s not a damn thing anyone can do until we have principled and uncorrupted legislators. In no uncertain terms, the US military is a big part of what’s killing us as a species. The military industrial complex isn’t even a productive investment with returns, it’s just a big ol’ fucking sinkhole of public resources into private interests (defense contractors) that churn out pollution. Note here supposed progressive, CPC member Frank Pallone’s defense of military exemptions from COP26 agreements when asked by independent journalist Abby Martin. That was embarrassing. The only thing the US military actually protects is access to resources for global capitalism. (They do not protect your first amendment rights, btw-- only you do that, by freely exercising them.) Beyond that it’s just a behemoth that exists as a poor excuse of a jobs program for hundreds of thousands of kids coming out of high school and finding themselves in an economy with limited opportunities. Anyway, I could rail on militarism and empire all day. I hope the Gang of Four maintain their no vote when this circles back, hope they can pick up a few (Warnock, come on man). But it’s gonna pass and it’s gonna be bigger next year and it’ll pass too, and so on, until the American public gets serious about change."