US Politics

Congress voting against decreasing the military budget symbolises everything wrong with American politics

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Just last month, proposals led by Representatives Mark Pocan in the House and Bernie Sanders in the Senate to decrease the U.S. military budget by 10% and redirect the $74 billion acquired to coronavirus relief failed to pass through Congress. And unfortunately, it was not even close.

The bill, which was rejected 324-93, can be accredited to all 185 Republicans who were present, as well as 139 Democrats. Only the U.S. Representative for Michigan Justin Amash, an independent, voted with the remaining 92 Democrats to bring the proposal into effect. Similarly, the Senate version of the bill also failed by a 23-77 margin, again without one Republican vote in support.

As a result, the new $740.5 billion military budget for the 2021 fiscal year has been approved instead, representing the sixth year in a row that the annual budget has been increased, including a 20% overall spike since Trump took office.

In normal circumstances alone, this would be an outrage to the large section of the U.S. population who see the military budget as already overly bloated, as well as those who oppose endless wars the spending helps to perpetuate. But what makes this year’s needlessly expensive budget uniquely terrible is the backdrop of the inadequate government response to assisting those most in need in dealing with the current coronavirus pandemic.

With the U.S. currently facing over 150,000 dead, 30 million unemployed, 5.4 million extra uninsured, and a looming eviction crisis as 40 million are unable to pay rent, how is it that the U.S. can still afford to pass a military budget larger than that of the next ten biggest countries’ militaries combined?

In short, they can’t. 

But unfortunately, this type of framing is never reserved for those in the military-industrial complex. Instead, for many of those in the mainstream media, fearmongering about the price for the taxpayer is only valid when it involves debating the costs of programmes that are supposed to help the ordinary American, such as Medicare for all or universal free college.

Rather, the dynamic in Washington is overwhelmingly influenced by the many special interest groups that donate excessive amounts of money to elected officials and lobby them to vote in favour of bills that they support. This level of corruption is so prominent – especially involving the wills of the military-industrial complex – that they know there will never be majority support for any type of defunding, no matter how small.

Relating to the most recent bill to cut the budget by 10%, a report by Sludge found that those who voted against the proposal on average took 3.4 times more in contributions from the military-industrial complex than those who voted for the reduction. In terms of hard numbers, this translated on average to over a $100,000 difference in contributions amongst Senators who voted on opposing sides of the bill.

What this demonstrates is the patterned stranglehold that moneyed interests have on the American political system, that proceeds to gaslight any attempts to genuinely help the average person, at the expense of the corporate institutions that lobbyists work so hard to benefit.

For instance, regarding the latest proposal to cut the military budget, although it was overwhelmingly defeated in Congress by an overall 3:1 ratio (including 0% support amongst elected Republicans), in terms of the American public, a Data for Progress poll had shown a 56% support for the bill, including even a 50% support amongst Republican voters.

This is the kind of misrepresentation of a broken system, reflected in Gallup polls that consistently show Congress’s approval rating to be less than 30%, and is a large part of why many Americans – especially the younger generation – have decided to check out of the system altogether.

Frustratingly, it’s not only matters of the military that this level of corruption is reserved for, or even that it’s just a case of one party being the problem. The rot is systematic, multi-issued, and on both sides.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that a split has formed within the Democratic Party over which direction to go forward. In short, the split has emerged between so-called moderate Democrats who see Trump as the cause of all the problems in America, and progressives who see Trump as more of a symptom of the overall corrupt and broken nature of the American political system that needs to be fixed.

Unfortunately for progressives, however, with the nomination of Joe Biden as the Democratic presidential candidate to go up against Trump, it seems as though the party has chosen which direction to go in. And let’s just say, it’s not the direction of overhauling the system.

Instead, Biden represents an ideology that promotes reverting to the political landscape before Trump took office. This includes the politics of continued corruption, compromise, and Republican-lite policies.

No, Biden does not support Medicare for all, even in the middle of a healthcare pandemic where polls have shown support upwards of 69% for the policy. No, he does not support federal legalisation of marijuana, even though polls show that two-thirds of Americans support it. And almost certainly, Biden would not have supported a 10% reduction in the military budget had he been in Congress to vote on it.

What this shows, is for all of the #resistance crowd that enjoy portraying themselves as the antithesis of Trump, in many ways, it’s the politicians they support that seem to be holding Trump up policy-wise.

Yes, moderate Democrats will show their support for left-wing movements in symbolic terms, such as voting to remove confederate generals’ names from various military bases. But in terms of being on the right side of issues that would genuinely help minorities and the working class most in need, unfortunately, the clash with special interests are just too strong.

And whilst the system remains like this, it will remain fundamentally broken.

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