Each year the Congressional Progressive Caucus releases a weaker and weaker budget proposal. This year they asked for input first. I sent them this and communicated with them about it, so I know they read it. An excerpt:
“Last year’s Congressional Progressive Caucus budget proposed to cut military spending by, in my calculation, 1%. In fact, no statement from the Progressive Caucus even mentioned the existence of military spending; you had to hunt through the numbers to find the 1% cut. This was not the case in other recent years, when the CPC prominently proposed to end wars and cut particular weapons. With all due respect, how is this censoring of any mention of the military evidence of progressing, rather than regressing?”
I should clarify that when the Progressive Caucus prominently proposed serious cuts to militarism, George W. Bush was president, and that the CPC will no doubt discover a distaste for mass murder if Trump is inaugurated.
But what about now?
This year’s initial press release and email from the CPC again pretends that the majority of the budget (which goes to militarism) just doesn’t exist. Its slightly longer summary includes, near the bottom:
“Sustainable Defense: Promoting peace And Security
- Modernizes our defense system to create sustainable Pentagon spending
- Ends funding for unsustainable wars
- Increases funding for diplomacy and strategic humanitarian aid
- Adds robust funding for refugee resettlement programs”
That’s (relative) progress. But what does it mean exactly? What does a budget pie chart look like? Does 50 to 60 percent still go into war preparations? The “full budget” tells us this:
“SUSTAINABLE DEFENSE: PROMOTING PEACE AND SECURITY
“Pentagon spending has doubled over the last decade at the expense of investments in working families. But as the war in Afghanistan draws to a close, we need a leaner, more agile force to combat realistic twenty-first century threats.”
[Note that the latest plan is to keep the war on Afghanistan going for decades, and that the CPC has not lifted a finger to end it. So, if that war doesn’t “draw to a close,” do we still get the “leaner force”? And what does “agile” mean? And who gets killed in the “realistic” “agile” wars? The same war in Afghanistan was “drawing to a close” in identical language in last year’s CPC budget.]
“The People’s Budget responsibly [is there some other way?] ends operations in Afghanistan, brings our troops home, focuses Pentagon spending on modern security threats instead of Cold War – era weapons and contracts, and invests in a massive job creation program that will help workers transition into civilian jobs.”
[In fact, Congress has to actually end that war, but it’s right for a decent budget proposal to assume it’s ended. However, what about the war in Iraq and Syria? The drone wars in several nations? The bases spreading like a virus across the globe? The U.S. role in the Saudi slaughter in Yemen? The new war in Libya? Why only end the one war that people are already pretending has “ended”? That said, transition to a peace economy is exactly the right idea, which is why it’s a shame that, despite there supposedly being a progressive caucus, only three Congress members have signed onto this bill. And where are the numbers in this budget? How much is “massive”?]
“The People’s Budget also increases investments in diplomacy, sustainable development, and humanitarian assistance to address the ongoing crises in Syria and Iraq. The Congressional Progressive Caucus does not support Pentagon cuts mandated by sequestration and believes there are more responsible savings achievable that will not harm service members and veterans.”
[Whoa. If you have actually thought through the advantages to the so-called “service members” of the “massive” job creation program, what can you possibly mean by suggesting that cutting the military would “harm” them? Clearly, the CPC has not actually thought that through or given any moral reflection at all to its proposal to fund the most expensive military in the history of the earth in order to benefit its troops. This comes naturally to Congress members, of course, as they’ve been conditioned to think of military spending as justified by the jobs it provides in their districts. They should pause for a moment, though, and think about how they would explain that benefit to children whose parents were killed by a missile from a U.S. drone.]
“End Emergency War Funding Beginning in FY2017 – Our budget limits Overseas Contingency (OCO) funding to redeployment out of Afghanistan in FY2017 and zeroes out OCO thereafter, saving $761 billion compared to current law.”
[This is clearly following the misleading practice of multiplying everything by 10 and then hiding in some footnote that all “savings” will be “over 10 years.” So let’s say this is actually $76.1 billion. That’s still (relative) progress and a good beginning. Now, surely we’ll hear about the serious cuts….]
“It is time to swiftly and safely end the war in Afghanistan and end the policy of funding endless war. An expedited withdrawal from Afghanistan would save billions. Further, the use of emergency funding via the OCO account masks the true impact of war spending and should be discontinued.”
“Reduce Base Pentagon Spending – We reduce baseline military spending to ensure Pentagon spending does not continue to contribute significantly to our fiscal burden, and establishes a responsible targeted approach towards a sustainable defense budget.”
[Hey, pick your favorite reasons. But where did the numbers go, all of a sudden? How much do you reduce it?]
“The People’s Budget would repeal the damaging across-the-board cuts and caps proposed by the Budget Control Act, while providing significant savings through the enactment of reforms, endorsed in bipartisan fiscal reform proposals. It redirects funding to priorities such as caring for our veterans, Congressional Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), smart diplomacy, and environmental cleanup and climate change mitigation programs within the DOD Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan.”
[This is where one has to start worrying. The numbers have disappeared. The cuts currently required by law are “damaging” (and too large?). The CPC wants people who are trained and armed to kill and destroy to work on programs that help us better survive climate change. Is the CPC aware that the military is our top creator of climate change, that significant military cuts would not just “mitigate” climate change but actually reduce it?]
“Adjusting to Pentagon Downsizing and Investing in Non-Defense Manufacturing – The People’s Budget increases investments in DOD’s Office of Economic Adjustment to assist state and local governments to respond to major defense program shifts by helping communities adjust to defense contract losses.
“Fully funding initiatives like the DOT’s Federal Ship Financing Program and significantly increasing federal agency procurement of sustainable technology from communities impacted by Pentagon cuts will help provide a just transition for defense manufacturing workers and ensure that the U.S. manufacturing base remains vibrant.”
[Great! How much is “fully”?]
“Modernizing our Defense Posture – Our budget achieves a smaller force structure with fewer personnel through attrition. A modern defense strategy must focus our armed forces on their strengths of crisis response, smart security, and deterrence. Our military needs to adapt to current threats and challenges, particularly cyberwarfare, nuclear proliferation, and combatting non-state actors. No savings are obtained by reducing military personnel wages or benefits, including TRICARE and pensions. The proportion of private contractor personnel would be significantly reduced and their work transitioned to civilian personnel, curbing needles “outsourcing” that creates excessive cost overruns. Additional reforms include the decommissioning of our Cold War-era nuclear weapons infrastructure, as outlined by the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act, and reducing procurement and research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) spending by making smarter procurement choices.”
Attrition? Do they, then, defund recruitment? They don’t say. Cyberwarfare? Combatting non-state actors? Aren’t these jobs for police? Not reducing personnel except through attrition, in order to not “harm” the personnel? Yet an investment in a “massive” non-military jobs program that none of the military personnel will have time to find employment in? The SANE Act does not, in fact, “decommission … nuclear weapons infrastructure.” It blocks the creation of certain types of insane new additions to the “nuclear weapons infrastructure,” presumably allowing the existing “infrastructure” to phase out through the “attrition” of either being shut down as too old or killing us all.
“Audit the Pentagon – As the only federal agency that cannot be audited, the Pentagon loses tens of billions of dollars annually to waste, fraud, and abuse. It is past time to check the wasteful practices with little oversight that weaken our financial outlook and ultimately, our national security.”
[Get it? When the Pentagon wastes money instead of buying more weapons, our national security is weakened. So, any money saved by eliminating the waste will have to go into more weapons. Putting it into education or housing would endanger us. Or are we willing to run that risk? In that case, if we know that the Pentagon wastes tens of billions, why not back at least a cut of $20 billion now?]
“Diplomacy and Development – The People’s Budget increases investment in diplomacy and development to stabilize key regions of the world through supporting the United States’ leadership in the United Nations, smart security, providing vital governance, development and humanitarian assistance, and increasing the tools to combat the horrors of drug and human trafficking and nuclear proliferation. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of people forcibly displaced throughout the world has reached the highest level ever recorded at a staggering 59.5 million people. The People’s Budget recognizes this and provides robust funding for refugee resettlement programs. Our plan rebalances goals and risks to achieve a more effective mix of defense, diplomacy, and development aid. By adopting this new global security posture, investing in domestic priorities and creating a cost-effective military aligned with 21st century threats, the U.S. can achieve significant deficit reduction goals while simultaneously enhancing global security.”
[Never mind what created the refugees! O.K., yes, this is needed, but where are the numbers?]
At the end of the CPC budget, just like last year’s, are a few pages of actual numbers, where you can find, just like last year, a $6 billion, or roughly 1%, cut to the “base” spending of the Department of so-called Defense. You also find $104 billion investment in infrastructure, and $68 billion in additional job creation, plus $94 billion to make college, not free, but “affordable.” There’s no single-payer healthcare here, but the godforsaken “public option.” There’s also $1 billion for public financing of election campaigns.
The vast difference between the modest expenditures on public goods and the tiny military cuts is made up by taxing financial transactions, carbon, capital gains, etc. All such taxes are goods in and of themselves. But the sort of investment in transition to sustainable energy that we actually need, plus the restraint in murdering large numbers of people that those large numbers of people need, can only come from serious cuts to the military. The $76.1 billion cut to the slush fund is a good start. But much more serious cuts are needed to so-called Defense, to Energy, to so-called Homeland Security, to the CIA and NSA and so on. The habit of refusing to imagine serious change didn’t begin with Hillary Clinton for President. It’s deeply ingrained in Washington.