Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Romanian and U.S troops staged joint exercises with U.S. Black Hawk helicopters, part of the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade nine-month rotational deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which aims to reassure NATO’s European allies in light of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
When income inequality combines with systemic and systematic redistribution of virtually all income growth to the wealthiest while their taxes are reduced, you’ve got a budget problem. People increasingly need help as the median household income remains flat, even as costs rise. Either you can literally write off the lives of poorer people, as the healthcare “reform” bills from the House and Senate effectively do, or you need to find ways to reduce other spending.
The single biggest section of the discretionary portion of the budget is military spending. For years the Pentagon has been incapable of fiscal responsibility. This is the body that, according to news reports last fall, tried to hide $125 billion in wasted spending over a five year program. It’s the only agency in the entire federal government still unable to pass a financial audit. And it’s handed the largest check even as the Cold War is long over, no other country has our military power, and major new weapons systems have been outright disasters and money sinks.
But big companies that make billions and billions of dollars a year shovel contributions at congressional representatives because it’s a great investment. All that income only required $11 million in 2016 donations, with 38% going to Democrats and 62% to Republicans, according to OpenSecrets.org.
For the 2017 fiscal year that ends on September 30, the Obama budget called for $582.7 billion, which included a base budget of $523.9 billion and the “overseas contingency operations (OCO) budget” of $58.8 billion. The Trump administration wanted to add about $54 billion. As the Defense Department’s own budget numbers showed, it requested $574.5 billion in base budget and $64.6 billion in OCO for a total of $639.1 billion.
Ah, the pikers. Today, the House passed a $696.5 billion defense bill that makes Trump’s look positively reasonable in comparison.
There have been indications the House would insist on more spending than the White House did. The final vote by party is — or maybe it’s should be — surprising. A huge number of Democrats voted for the measure.
There are currently 240 Republicans and 194 Democrats in the body, with 1 vacancy. Out of the Republicans, 227 voted in favor and 8 voted against this bill, making 230, with 10 apparently missing in action. Of the 194 Democrats, 117 vot ed for the bill and 73 voted against, with 4 not voting. In other words, of the party that supposedly opposes rampant military spending and the Trump administration, 60% voted for this bill.
There are things the country cannot afford. One is a defense budget that embraces 18.7% year-over-year growth, particularly when pressure on safety net spending increases with a growing population and increasing income inequality while tax receipts are up between 2016 and 2017 by only 5.9%. It seems crazy that the GOP, which fancies itself a champion of fiscal responsibility, agrees to this and the party in opposition, which has a glamorous self-image as some sort of resistance group, marches in step.