Last week, President Joe Biden announced a $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, aptly called the American Jobs Plan. As far as polarized and partisan America goes, it was foreseeable that GOP members would rush to shut it down, likely before ever reading the details of the plan.
The main source of contention was from where this trillion-dollar figure would be amassed. If American taxpayer money was not lavishly spent on failing military projects, the money needed to fund Biden’s plan would be found in surplus.
It is widely agreed that America is in dire need of a vast infrastructure overhaul. Even former President Donald Trump announced his own infrastructure proposal during his single term. Corporate America has for years chimed in , complaining about the crumbling state of U.S. infrastructure. Ageing roads, lack of clean water and a growing climate crisis have been the mainstay of Biden’s proposed plan.
Growing wealth inequality led to Biden announcing a corporate tax hike to drive through his infrastructure proposals. Inevitably, the shareholder focused Republican Party, as well as corporate America, profoundly opposed any increase to corporate tax.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos , who built his billions on the back of U.S. government funded infrastructure, asked for a “balanced solution” to tackle the infrastructure crisis. The same question, however, was never asked of Trump’s multi-trillion dollar bailout of the stock market.
Given the strong obstruction to Biden’s much needed corporate tax increase, one pot of money Biden could easily tap into to raise funds quickly is found in the ludicrous sums of money splashed across the military budget. Last year, the U.S. government spent $783 billion on defense, a 6.3 percent increase from the previous year despite the coronavirus crisis, working out to be over 14 percent of the total federal budget. The next closest country, China, had its—by no means small— $237 billion spending dwarfed by the U.S.
Much of the U.S. military budget is consumed by extravagant and often failing big money projects. Take the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a failing project, costing a colossal $1.7 trillion to develop and $36,000 per hour to fly. The U.S. already has a mammoth Air Force without this new jet, 13,624 aircrafts to be precise, crushing its closest rival Russia nearly four times over.
The new F-35 struggled to reach any of its targets, achieving a mere 69 percent mission-capability rate, short of the military’s 80 percent gold standard and continuing to cost the military as they find ways to correct the flaws. To make matters worse, the Air Force chief of staff Gen. Charles Brown last month stated that the jet would rarely be used, with preference given to cheaper jets. The military should alternatively cut its losses and redistribute the money into actually supporting the American people by funding Biden’s infrastructure plan.
The military has a track record of overspending on unnecessary missions. By 2008, only four years after the Iraq War, the invasion cost U.S. tax payers over $3 trillion. With ongoing expenses as a consequence of the war, Iraq War spending is likely to surpass World War II expenditure making it the most expensive war in U.S. history. Had that money been spent on U.S. infrastructure instead, the economy may not be in its current state of decline.
The last senior Republican politician to seriously call for a cut to military spending was former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld , who announced his plans on September 10, 2001. His ” war on bureaucracy ” still holds true today but failed to see the light of day considering the events which transpired the following day.
“This adversary is closer to home,” announced Rumsfeld. “Money disappears into duplicative duties and bloated bureaucracy.”
Resonating with Rumsfeld’s sentiments on bureaucracy, the military conducted an internal review as recently as 2016, discovering $125 billion in administrative waste. For fear of congressional budget cuts, the military chose instead to bury the evidence of the bureaucracy, paving the way for Trump to further increase defense spending.
Since the events of 9/11, few, if any, Republican politicians dared question defense spending. Despite the U.S. experiencing an unemployment crisis, as well as suffering the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee are pressuring Biden to increase military spend an additional 3 to 5 percent.
Biden’s infrastructure plan echoes former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s infrastructure program, the New Deal, used to kick-start the U.S. economy following the Great Depression.
COVID provided the perfect cover to allow for greater government spending on those that needed it most, in a country that has become more conservative with its spending—except when it comes to military spending. Under Trump, the Department of Defense saw a year-on-year rise in spending, unlike cuts suffered by health and science research.
It is time the U.S.’ fixation on defense spending comes to an end. Redistributing the budget to finance much needed services would help save lives and bolster the economy.
Ahmed Twaij is a freelance journalist focusing mainly on U.S. politics, social justice and the Middle East. He is also a photographer and filmmaker. His Twitter is @twaiji .
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.
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