The United States is a world leader in new coronavirus cases, unemployment remains sky-high, and COVID testing and protective gear for health workers are scarce once more.
But this week, instead of sending desperately needed help, Congress will debate sending $740 billion to the Pentagon.
In 2019, more than $370 billion—half of the Pentagon budget—went to commercial contractors.
These priorities are desperately out of touch, and Americans know it. A new Data for Progress poll shows that more than half of Americans support cutting 10 percent of the Pentagon budget to pay for things like the coronavirus response, health care, education, and housing.
It’s a bipartisan cause. While 69 percent of Democrats supported such a cut, so did 50 percent of Republicans.
A few lawmakers are taking action.
Soon, both the House and Senate will vote on a proposal by Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Barbara Lee, and Representative Mark Pocan calling for a 10 percent cut to the Pentagon budget — worth $74 billion — to fund more urgent needs. It couldn’t come at a better time.
Today’s Pentagon budget is higher than it was during the peak of the Cold War. If this spending were necessary to guarantee our security, that would be one thing. Instead, in 2019, more than $370 billion — half of the Pentagon budget—went to commercial contractors.
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We’ve overinvested in the Pentagon and underinvested in everything else—and it shows in our country’s pandemic response. The Pentagon budget is more than 100 times the budget of the Centers for Disease Control. The contracts awarded to just one company, Lockheed Martin, were worth more than seven times the entire budget of the CDC.
A 10 percent cut to the Pentagon could come from a multitude of places, including: ending our never-ending wars in the Middle East, reducing our reliance on nuclear weapons, and turning off the spigot to arms contractors.
All this would be worth doing even if we didn’t need the money so badly elsewhere. But while it’s a drop in the bucket to the Pentagon, that $74 billion would be a giant windfall to many critical government programs.
For just 10 percent of the Pentagon budget, we could house every homeless person in the United States—or buy enough N95 protective face masks for every essential worker in the country to use one every day for a year. For a fraction of that $74 billion, we could multiply the CDC budget several times over.
Unfortunately, politicians on both sides of the aisle have unquestioningly sent hundreds of billions of dollars to the Pentagon for year after year. But now, at a time of such desperate need in our country, this cut should be an easy decision.
This shift in spending has support from Americans of every political persuasion. It’s time to reinvest in what really keeps us safe.