Once again, it’s that time of year when Washington prepares to sign off on a mind-boggling $886 billion defense budget. But as always, one senator is taking a stand. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has made it clear that he’s not down with pouring yet more money into the Pentagon and defense contractors. He plans to vote against the bill, arguing that America’s priorities need a drastic realignment.
“Unless there are major changes to the bill, I intend to vote against it,” Sanders made clear in a blistering op-ed, stressing that the Pentagon certainly doesn’t need more billions. Sanders didn’t hold back, referring to the cycle of defense contractors lobbying for government contracts as nothing more than “legalized bribery.”
This year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed by the House earlier this month, adding a whopping $28 billion to last year’s already record-high defense budget. Progressive advocates have called out this defense budget extravaganza as reckless, particularly when the country’s social safety net is dwindling, and we’re grappling with multiple crises simultaneously.
Sanders didn’t shy away from pointing out the glaring issues neglected by U.S. politicians, such as the escalating climate crisis, a crumbling healthcare system, an education system on the brink, and soaring housing shortages. While these vital issues get side-lined, the cash flow to the Pentagon, according to Sanders, seems endless.
Sanders went on to highlight a rather alarming fact: the U.S. spends more on its military than the next ten nations combined. Meanwhile, the Pentagon can’t even keep track of the trillions of dollars it already has, with last year’s audit showing the department failed to account for over 60% of its assets, totaling $3.5 trillion at the time.
“A serious effort to address this waste should be undertaken before Congress throws more money at the Pentagon,” Sanders wrote.
He went on to condemn the practice of allocating a massive chunk of the Pentagon’s budget to defense contractors, terming it “corporate welfare by a different name.” It’s well-known that these contractors have a habit of price gouging to pocket billions in profits from the government, fattening the wallets of executives and shareholders.
With a system that enables profits from these hefty contracts to flow back into campaign contributions, it’s no wonder Sanders labels it a form of “legalized bribery.”
It’s time, says Sanders, to shift the national priorities and trim the fat from military spending. Consistently voting against the yearly defense bill, Sanders has made it clear where he believes the money could be better spent – like on Medicare for All. To drive this point home, he’s proposed amendments to the NDAA that would cut the budget by 10 percent, reducing it by $88.6 billion. The amendments would also hold the Pentagon accountable, requiring them to return part of the budget if they continue to fail audits and report on defense contractor “fraud” to Congress.
It’s a bold stand in a sea of complacency, reminding us all that our national priorities could and should look very different. As always, Bernie’s not just talking the talk, he’s walking the walk. It’s high time we followed his lead.