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U.S. tanks appear during a military training exercise in May of 2016 in Vaziani, Georgia. (Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A $778 Billion Pentagon Budget Is Our Lump of Coal

As Congress passed a $778 billion war and military budget, about half of which will go to corporate contractors, they failed to pass the Build Back Better plan that costs less than a quarter of that annually, and would have delivered help to millions of people.

What if you wanted less child poverty, better health care, more help with child care and elder care, and at least a gesture toward a solution to the climate crisis? And what if instead you got a $778 billion check for war profiteering?

That’s the bait and switch we just got, as Congress passed a $778 billion war and military budget, about half of which will go to corporate contractors, and failed to pass the Build Back Better plan that costs less than a quarter of that annually, and would have delivered help to millions of people.

Despite the slash and burn approach taken by Congress to the plan, each and every major provision of Build Back Better is supported by a majority of voters.

This is, in fact, not what Americans want. A large majority of voters support the Build Back Better plan, which would continue to send checks to families with children, expand health care subsidies, make child care and home care more affordable, and invest in clean energy. Despite the slash and burn approach taken by Congress to the plan, each and every major provision of Build Back Better is supported by a majority of voters. And a majority would like to see the Pentagon budget cut by ten percent to fund domestic needs – the exact things that Build Back Better funds.

Much has been made of Senator Joe Manchin’s declared opposition to the Build Back Better plan. But after months of negotiations for help that people desperately need, progressives are not ready to give up that easily

It’s not over. In case you need some motivation to get involved, here are the facts about what Congress is choosing when it funds a $778 billion Pentagon budget over Build Back Better:

  • More for Pentagon contracts to a single company (Lockheed Martin, $75 billion in FY 2021) than child care and preschool ($40 billion/year under BBBA)
  • More for equipment and programs the Pentagon didn’t even ask for ($25 billion) than child and earned income tax credits ($20 billion/year under BBBA)
  • More on guarding the world’s oil supply ($81 billion/year) than for climate and clean energy initiatives to protect the planet($55 billion/year under BBBA)
  • More for the Space Force ($17.5 billion) than for healthcare for Americans ($13 billion/year under BBBA)
  • More than twice as much for military bases in Germany ($7.5 billion) than for Medicare hearing benefits ($3.5 billion/year under BBBA)
  • More for the wasteful F-35 ($12 billion) than on a better immigration system ($10 billion/year under BBBA)

These are the wrong priorities. And it’s up to movements and grassroots pressure to turn this around. 

Copyright © 2021 National Priorities Project / Institute for Policy Studies
Lindsay Koshgarian

Lindsay Koshgarian

Lindsay Koshgarian directs the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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