Congress recently announced a bipartisan budget deal to fund the federal government through 2022. It’s a lopsided budget if there ever was one.
Even after America’s longest war in Afghanistan ended last year, military spending isn’t going down. In fact, it’s skyrocketing upwards — from $740 billion in the last budget set under Trump to $782 billion in this deal.
The same new budget offers just $730 billion to meet urgent domestic needs at home.
That means that even during a pandemic, supply chain crisis, and painful inflation, we’ll put more resources into the military and war than public health, education, green jobs, affordable housing, scientific and medical research, child care, and every other domestic need — combined.
This special treatment for the Pentagon recklessly squanders precious resources that could be used to strengthen our families and communities against our compounding crises at home.
Families are fearful for their economic security. The pandemic hasn’t yet ended, schools and hospitals face ongoing staffing shortages, and the opioid epidemic is raging. Meanwhile our dependence on oil continues to fuel the climate crisis, while supporting corrupt authoritarian states and subjecting families to wild price swings.
Increasing military spending does nothing to address these problems. And it won’t make us safer, even as war rages in Ukraine. The U.S. military budget is already larger than the next 11 countries combined — and more than 12 times larger than Russia’s.
Yet neither that spending, the advanced U.S. military hardware scattered across Eastern Europe, nor the thousands of U.S. troops already positioned throughout the continent prevented Russia from invading Ukraine and sparking a giant humanitarian crisis.
If anything, that military presence has only aggravated tensions with Russia — and put innocent people in countries like Ukraine squarely in the middle of a superpower conflict.
President Biden has wisely decided not to risk nuclear war by sending U.S. troops or air power to engage militarily with Russia. But aggressively ramping up our overall military spending — less than 1 percent of which is actually earmarked for the Ukraine response — only ratchets up those superpower tensions and risks dragging us into a larger war.
The budget deal also prioritizes militarization at home. It continues to fund the immigration enforcement agencies responsible for the worst abuses of the Trump era, including family separations and millions of deportations. It even maintains prior funding for Trump’s inhumane and destructive border wall, which has already proven a costly boondoggle.
The main winners here are contractors who profit off human suffering.
In recent years, more than half of all military spending has gone to for-profit, private contractors. The new spending bill continues this windfall. It spends more on expensive weapons systems than even the Pentagon requested, and it continues lucrative contracts for companies that detain and surveil immigrants.
Our longstanding patterns of spending on war have enriched corporate profiteers while leaving less for our needs here at home. They didn’t prevent a disastrous war in Europe, either. And yet conservatives in Congress have insisted on plowing more money into the Pentagon year after year.
In recent years, congressional opposition to unlimited Pentagon budgets and abusive immigrant detention practices has grown, with record numbers of members voting against completely unwarranted military spending hikes. But while their numbers are growing, they’re still a minority.
This deal is a sign that there’s still a long way to go before our funding priorities match our needs.
Lindsay Koshgarian directs the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.