As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempts to cut non-defense spending while drastically increasing the over-inflated defense budget, Sen. Bernie Sanders chastised McConnell for threatening a government shutdown by placing the profit margins of his largest political donors above the health and needs of everyday Americans. By ending parity for defense and non-defense spending, McConnell plans to cut federal programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and CHIP, while vastly increasing the military’s budget and the profit margins of defense contractors, including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, etc.
“Any agreement must provide our armed forces with the resources they need to fulfill their missions,” Sen. McConnell stated during a floor speech on Thursday. “That means setting aside the misguided notion that new defense spending needs to be matched dollar for dollar by new non-defense spending.”
McConnell continued, “Since fiscal year 2013, discretionary defense spending has been cut by $85 billion more – $85 billion more than non-defense spending.”
“I am not quite sure why Senate Majority Leader McConnell is pushing the Senate toward a government shutdown by his insistence on ending the longstanding bi-partisan budget agreements over parity for defense and non-defense spending,” Sen. Sanders wrote in a statement on Friday. “This agreement is enormously important for working families and is something that cannot be terminated. Today, domestic funding for education, nutrition assistance, affordable housing and other important programs is on track to be at a 40-year low as a percentage of GDP. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense has been largely inoculated from cuts as a result of the Overseas Contingency Operations loophole that is not subject to the spending caps established in 2011.”
Considered a slush fund for the Pentagon, the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) loophole allows the Defense Department to move tens of billions of dollars from the base budget to the OCO in order to avoid budget caps. Agreeing with Sanders, defense budget analyst Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said, “Let’s not forget the $30 billion or so per year DoD has moved from the base budget into OCO to avoid the caps. When you include that, DoD has been cut much less than non-defense.”
Sanders added, “Providing parity in these budget negotiations means fully funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Community Health Center program without offsets. It means increased funding for the Social Security Administration and the Veterans Administration so that they can provide guaranteed benefits to seniors and veterans. It means keeping our promises to 1.5 million workers who are about to lose a large part of the pensions they were promised. It means addressing the crisis of student debt, expanding childcare and improving the infrastructure in rural America. It means providing help in the national struggle against opioid and heroin addiction.
“Further, we must immediately pass legislation protecting the Dreamers. As a result of President Trump’s cruel decision on Sept. 5, 2017, some 800,000 young people in our country are now living in extreme anxiety. These Dreamers, who have known the United States of America as their only home, are now on the verge of losing their legal status and their ability to get an education, employment or serve in the military.”
For Fiscal Year 2018, U.S. military budget is expected to exceed $824.6 billion, which remains larger than the defense budgets of the next nine countries combined. Besides obtaining lucrative defense contracts on a daily basis, private contractors, including Raytheon, Bechtel, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, KBR, and many others, are also the largest contributors of political donations (legal bribes).
On Friday, Sanders took to Twitter and wrote, “When history looks back on this period, I do not want people to see a U.S. Congress which worked overtime to protect billionaires and large corporations but turned its back on providing health care to vulnerable children.”