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Outlets That Scolded Sanders Over Deficits Uniformly Silent on $700B Pentagon Handout

The reaction thus far to this unprecedented handout to military contractors and weapons makers has been one big yawn.

With the cost of just one weapons system–the F35 fighter–you could pay all state college tuition for 21 years. (Photo: US Air Force/Madelyn Brown)

Where did all the concern over deficits go? After two years of the media lamenting, worrying and feigning outrage over the cost of Bernie Sanders’ two big-budget items—free college and single-payer healthcare—the same outlets are uniformly silent, days after the largest military budget increase in history.$70 billion a year seemed like a lot of money when all it would pay for was college education (Fox News Insider, 2/6/16).

Monday, the Senate voted to increase military spending by a whopping $81 billion, from $619 billion to $700 billion—an increase of over 13 percent. (The House passed its own $696 billion Pentagon budget in July—Politico, 7/14/17.) The reaction thus far to this unprecedented handout to military contractors and weapons makers has been one big yawn.

No write-ups worrying about the cost increase in the Washington Post or Vox or NPR. No op-eds expressing concern for “deficits” in the New York Times, Boston Globe or US News. No news segments on Fox News or CNN on the “unaffordable” increase in government spending. All the outlets that spent considerable column inches and airtime stressing over Sanders’ social programs are suddenly indifferent to “how we will afford” this latest military giveaway. The US government votes 89–9 to add $81 billion extra to the balance sheet—the equivalent of the government creating three new Justice Departments, four more NASAs, seven Treasury Departments, ten EPAs or 546 National Endowments for the the Arts—and there’s zero discussion as to “how we will pay for it.”

As FAIR has noted for decades (e.g., 2/23/11, 5/8/16), the media’s deficit discourse has always been a PR scam. A rhetorical bludgeon used to cry poverty any time a left-wing politician wants to help the poor or people of color that somehow is never an issue when it comes to pumping out F-22s and E3 AWACS, which evidently pay for themselves with magic.

The increase alone in military spending—over a budget that was already bigger than the next eight countries combined—is greater than the total amount spent annually on state university tuition by every student in the United States: $81 billion vs. $70 billion. This is to say that if the budget for the US military had just stayed the same for 2018, the US could have paid the tuition for every public college student this year, with $11 billion left over for board and books.


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Where, one is compelled to ask, are those who dismissed Sanders’ free college plan (a mere $47 billion a year, because it only covered two-thirds the costs) as “unaffordable”? Where is Kevin James of US News who did so (3/27/15)? Vicki Alger of the Washington Examiner (2/8/16)? Where is Abby Jackson of Business Insider (6/20/16) or AEI’s Andrew Kelly hand-wringing in the New York Times (1/20/16) and NPR (1/17/16)? Where are David H. Feldman and Robert B. Archibald in the Washington Post (4/22/16)?

A question that didn’t need to be asked when it came to the largest military hike in history (CNN, 1/14/16).

Where are the “detailed” Urban Institute or Brookings Institution studies showing a massive sticker-shock tax hike will be needed to pay for the Pentagon budget increase—the kind of studies that CNN can mindlessly repeat when they bring on DOD-boosters John McCain or Jack Reed?

Where are the Charles Lanes, Joe Scarboroughs, Wall Street Journal editorial boards and other “deficit hawks” in the media to condemn this? The answer is they’re nowhere. And they’re nowhere because no one in the media really cares about deficits, they only care about Deficits™, a clever marketing term used by those charged with keeping government money out of the hands of the poor—and in the coffers of weapons makers, banks and other wealthy interest groups.

Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson is a New York-based  journalist, a contributing analyst for, and co-host of the Citations Needed podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @adamjohnsonnyc

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