The US Senate is now debating an $886 bn defense authorization bill. Unless there are major changes to the bill, I intend to vote against it. Here’s why, explains Bernie Sanders (photo), a US Senator (Dem.), the ranking member of the Senate budget committee.
As everyone knows, our country faces enormous crises.
As a result of climate change our planet is experiencing unprecedented and rising temperatures. Along with the rest of the world, we need to make major investments to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into more efficient and sustainable energy sources, or the life we leave our kids and future generations will become increasingly unhealthy and precarious.
Our healthcare system is broken. While the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry make hundreds of billions in profit, 85 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured, our life expectancy is declining, and we have a massive shortage of doctors, nurses, mental health practitioners and dentists.
Our educational system is teetering. While we have one of the highest rates of childhood poverty of almost any major country, millions of parents cannot find affordable and quality childcare. The number of our young people who graduate from college is falling behind many other countries and 45 million Americans are struggling under the weight of student debt.
Our housing stock is totally inadequate. While gentrification is causing rents to soar in many parts of our country some 600,000 Americans are homeless, and 18 million are spending more than half of their limited incomes on housing.
These are some of the crises our country faces. And we’re not dealing with them. And then there is defense spending – well, that’s a whole other story.
I will oppose this bloated defense budget and efforts to further increase military spending through a defense supplemental for three main reasons:
First, more military spending is unnecessary. The $886 bn in defense spending agreed in the debt ceiling deal matches the Pentagon’s budget request and is more than sufficient to protect the United States and our allies.
Second, the Pentagon cannot keep track of the dollars it already has, leading to massive waste, fraud and abuse in the sprawling military-industrial complex. Last year, the department was unable to account for over half of its assets, which are in excess of $3.1 tn (sic!). The Government Accountability Office (Gao) reports that DOD still cannot accurately track its finances or post transactions to the correct accounts.
Third, much of this additional military spending will go to line the pockets of hugely profitable defense contractors – it is corporate welfare by a different name. Almost half of the Pentagon budget goes to private contractors, some of whom are exploiting their monopoly positions and the trust granted them by the United States to line their pockets.
Let’s be clear. Defending the American people is not only about pouring money into the Pentagon. It’s about making sure our children go to good schools and will have a habitable planet when they get older. It’s about making sure that every American has a decent standard of living and can enjoy quality healthcare and affordable housing.
As a nation, the time is long overdue for fundamental changes to our national priorities. Cutting military spending is a good first step, stresses senator Sanders.
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