Monday January 30, 2023

Biden’s budget

January 01, 2023

From the UK to Germany and the US to India, inflation has affected billions of people. Not only are working-class people in several countries reeling under the weight of the rising prices of essential commodities, but life is also becoming increasingly tough for the lower middle and middle classes.

In the US, around a million people faced power outages as a catastrophic blizzard shook parts of the country on the Christmas Eve 2022. In the UK and several other parts of Europe, workers are taking to the streets to vent their anger against the neoliberal agenda of their governments. In India and parts of Latin America, the poor and the marginalized are furious over the anti-people economic policies of their governments.

One of the factors leading to this current economic crisis is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But instead of trying to end the conflict, the international community has encouraged this devastating game of death and destruction. Several European states and the US have pumped billions of dollars into the conflict, prompting Ukraine to buy more weapons and prolong the conflict. The corporate media is busy creating the bogey of the Russian bear that they believe is hell bent on conquering country after country in the European continent.

These states have always been reluctant to extend a helping hand to Africa, where they may wipe out extreme poverty with the aid of around $5 billion dollars. They shy away from allocating funds for countries badly hit by climate change, and they are yet to come up with a concrete financial mechanism to fund the projects across the globe that is environmentally sustainable. But when it comes to fanning the flames of war, they willingly help.

America’s recent hefty military budget indicates that the country will continue to appease the military-industrial complex. According to the US Senate website, the 62nd annual National Defence Authorization Act supports a total of $857.9 billion in 2023 funding for national defence. The legislation authorizes $816.7 billion for the Department of Defence (DOD) and $30.3 billion for national security programmes within the Department of Energy (DOE). “Each year, the NDAA authorizes funding levels and provides authorities for the US military and other critical defence priorities, ensuring our troops have the training, equipment, and resources they need to carry out their missions.”

The language of the act makes it clear that US politicians and their partners in the defence industries have no plan to let the world be a peaceful place. The act seems to be declaring Russia and China as America’s arch enemies, allocating huge resources to counter the rising threat that they believe the two countries pose.

US President Joe Biden has also signed this act into a law. Earlier, the budget had smoothly been passed by Republican and Democrat lawmakers. Barring a few, no legislator has raised questions regarding the rationale for such a mammoth budget. The Soviet Union disintegrated long time ago. Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and a number of Al Qaeda leaders have been killed. ISIS has lost its emirates in Syria, hiding here and there. Given this, why should the budget of the US military be so huge? What are the specific dangers that a country with the largest number of nuclear and conventional weapons is facing? Which country can excel the US in air power? Is there any navy in the world as powerful as that of the mighty states of America? Could any European or Asian power dare to threaten the ruling class of a country that has militarily intervened in various parts of the world more than 223 times since 1777? Can the US with over 800 military posts in more than 150 countries be weakened or even challenged militarily?

If not, then what is the purpose of this colossal amount that has been allocated for the military-industrial complex? What is this idea of creating a space force? Is the sole superpower once again going to militarize space? Is it not aware of the damage that humans, in general, and global armed forces, in particular, caused to ozone layers? Are our oceans, seas, rivers and water streams not already polluted and should they not be cleaned or improved, and should we not allocate funds for this purpose after curtailing non-development expenditure like the defence expenses?

Should this huge amount not be spent on millions of Americans who dream of a better life? For instance, student loan debt in the US totals $1.745 trillion. The outstanding federal loan balance is $1.617 trillion and accounts for 92.7 per cent of all student loan debt. A large number of students have to borrow money to complete their degrees. According to some estimates, 42.8 million borrowers have federal student loan debt. The average federal student loan debt balance is $37,787 while the total average balance (including private loan debt) may be as high as $40,780. The average public university student borrows $32,880 to attain a bachelor’s degree.

Such debt is one of the major concerns of young Americans. Should the government not help them effectively instead of diverting resources towards militarization and nuclearization? It is not only student loan. Homelessness and other issues are also affecting the lives of millions. On any given night, there are about 500,000-600,000 people experiencing homelessness, with about one-third sleeping on the streets and the rest in shelters. According to a recent research by Harvard University, almost 40 million Americans “live in housing they cannot afford. Around 112 million Americans struggle to pay for healthcare.

Whenever people demand social security from the government, the corporate media and lawmakers raise a hue and cry, asserting that public money cannot be wasted like this to help lazy and idle people, but when it comes to the military budget and defence spending, both parties in the US political system throw blanket support behind such allocations. It is no wonder that the US has pumped more than $24 trillion into defence-related expenditure since 1945, including more than $5 trillion thrown into nuclear weapons that have only served to jeopardize human existence besides encouraging other states to enter into this insane race of developing the weapons of mass destruction.

It is time Americans asked tough questions from their ruling elite. They need to put an end to this culture of unaudited fund allocations, and should ask if such a colossal amount can be spent to appease arms manufacturers, why can an ordinary American not be helped through public money? They need to account for those politicians who are more interested in serving the interests of war mongers and the military industrial complex than the masses. They need to ask just how the Ukrainian conflict has plunged the world into a food crisis, and will this colossal budget not pave the way for more conflicts?

The writer is a freelance journalist who can be reached at: egalitarianism444@