Showing posts with label NDAA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NDAA. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Senate Slammed for Passing 'Bloated' NDAA But Delaying Build Back Better Act

"Don't tell me we can't afford to fight poverty, cancel student debt, pass paid leave, and defeat the climate crisis," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal after senators approved the $786 billion military spending bill.

BRETT WILKINS

December 15, 2021

As a bill authorizing $778 billion in military spending breezed through the U.S. Senate Wednesday amid darkening prospects for the Build Back Better social and climate investment package, peace and civil society groups decried what they called the misplaced priorities that place the military-industrial complex and corporate greed above dire human and planetary needs.

After passing the House of Representatives last week by a vote of 363-70—51 Democrats and 19 Republicans voted against it—88 senators voted to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022, a policy measure that provides $25 billion more in Pentagon funding than requested by President Joe Biden and nearly $38 billion more than the last NDAA of former President Donald Trump's tenure.

Only 11 senators voted against the measure: New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker—who in an unusual move changed his vote from "yes" to "no"—Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

"Where is all the hand-wringing over the $778 billion military bill that we've seen over Build Back Better, which costs less than a quarter as much annually? Congress has completely abdicated their responsibility for the Pentagon budget," Lindsay Koshgarian, program director of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, told Common Dreams. "They may as well hand over a blank check."

The bipartisan ease with which the NDAA passed stood in stark contrast with the increasingly dim prospects for the Build Back Better Act, which passed the House without a single Republican vote last month but was on the verge of collapse Wednesday as Sen. Joe Manchin (W-Va.)—who voted "yes" on the NDAA—seeks to eliminate the boosted child tax credit, a move experts say would impoverish millions of children.

"Families will stop receiving child tax credit checks next month unless Congress finally passes the Build Back Better Act, but the flow of dollars to stockholders for Pentagon contractors will go on, uninterrupted," lamented Koshgarian.

Carley Towne, national co-director of the peace group CodePink, called the NDAA "a slap in the face to working people across this country."

"Over the past few months, Congress has been gridlocked over the possibility of spending $350 billion annually on healthcare, education, and green jobs," she told Common Dreams. "All of a sudden, when it comes to money for war, Congress once again shows that they are ready and willing to prioritize war profiteers over human needs."

Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said that "as the national debate centers around how much is 'too much' to be spending on the true needs of the American people, it is unconscionable to approve three-quarters of a trillion dollars for war-making, a sum that is $25 billion more than the president even requested."

"Why is there more money for the military-industrial complex—providing no additional protection for our national security and arguably diminishing it—at the same time the U.S. is refusing to spend the $25 billion needed to make enough additional vaccines to vaccinate the world?" he asked.

Even the right-wing National Taxpayers Union called the NDAA's $778 billion topline spending figure "unsustainable."

"The Pentagon budget can't go on growing forever," Koshgarian stressed. "We need more members of Congress to step up, as some principled members have done, and say no to bigger and bigger Pentagon budgets."

"We've seen powerful progressive movements achieve a lot over the last couple of years," she added, "and we can move the needle on Pentagon spending, too."



This article originally appeared at CommonDreams.org. Originally published on December 15th, 2021.It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. 

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Thursday, August 19, 2021

Progressive Critics Say Investors in US Weapon-Makers Only Clear Winners of Afghan War


As the hawks who have been lying about the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan for two decades continue to peddle fantasies in the midst of a Taliban takeover and American evacuation of Kabul, progressive critics on Tuesday reminded the world who has benefited from the "endless war."

"Never has it been more important to end war profiteering."
—Public Citizen

"Entrenching U.S. forces in Afghanistan was the military-industrial complex's business plan for 20+ years," declared the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Public Citizen.

"Hawks and defense contractors co-opted the needs of the Afghan people in order to line their own pockets," the group added. "Never has it been more important to end war profiteering."

In a Tuesday morning tweet, Public Citizen highlighted returns on defense stocks over the past 20 years—as calculated in a "jaw-droppinganalysis by The Intercept—and asserted that "the military-industrial complex got exactly what it wanted out of this war."

The Intercept's Jon Schwarz examined returns on stocks of the five biggest defense contractors: Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics.

Schwarz found that a $10,000 investment in stock evenly split across those five companies on the day in 2001 that then-President Georg W. Bush signed the authorization preceding the U.S. invasion would be worth $97,295 this week, not adjusted for inflation, taxes, or fees.

According to The Intercept:

This is a far greater return than was available in the overall stock market over the same period. $10,000 invested in an S&P 500 index fund on September 18, 2001, would now be worth $61,613.

That is, defense stocks outperformed the stock market overall by 58% during the Afghanistan War.

"These numbers suggest that it is incorrect to conclude that the Taliban's immediate takeover of Afghanistan upon the U.S.'s departure means that the Afghanistan War was a failure," Schwarz added. "On the contrary, from the perspective of some of the most powerful people in the U.S., it may have been an extraordinary success. Notably, the boards of directors of all five defense contractors include retired top-level military officers."

"War profiteering isn't new," journalist Dina Sayedahmed said in response to the reporting, "but seeing the numbers on it is staggering."

Progressive political commentator and podcast host Krystal Ball used Schwarz's findings to counter a key argument that's been widely used to justify nearly 20 years of war.

"This is what it was really all about people," she tweeted of the defense contractors' returns. "Anyone who believes we were in Afghanistan to help women and girls is a liar or a fool."

Jack Mirkinson wrote Monday for Discourse Blog that "it is unquestionably heartbreaking to think about what the Taliban might inflict on women and girls, but let us dispense with this fantasy that the U.S. has been in Afghanistan to support women, or to build democracy, or to strengthen Afghan institutions, or any of the other lines that are deployed whenever someone has the temerity to suggest that endless war and occupation is a harmful thing."

"We did not go into Afghanistan to support its people, and we did not stay in Afghanistan to support its people," he added. "It is astonishing, given what we know about the monsters that the U.S. has propped up time and time again around the world, that the myth persists that we do anything out of our love for human rights. We went in and we stayed in for the same reason: the American empire is a force that must remain in perpetual motion."

As Common Dreams reported Monday, while the Taliban has retaken control, anti-war advocates have argued diplomacy is the only path to long-term peace, with Project South's Azadeh Shahshahani emphasizing that "the only ones who benefited from the U.S. war on Afghanistan were war-profiteering politicians and corporations while countless lives were destroyed."

Responding to Shahshahani's tweet about who has benefited from two decades of bloodshed, Zack Kopplin of the Government Accountability Project wrote, "Adding war-profiteering generals to the mix too."

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

COVID Misery Feeds the Beast but STARVES WORKING PEOPLE

Words by Charles Brooks

The American pandemic has created a public health and economic crisis felt widely and deeply across the nation. The most recent statistics reveal the crisis and depth of the despair felt by millions. Nearly 900,000 filed for unemployment just in the last week.  Over the past year, millions lost health insurance, and plunged senselessly into poverty, debt and eviction. Meanwhile the number of cases and death continues to tick upward as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts a dire immediate future with up to 699,000 new cases and up to 559,000 deaths by March 13, 2021.  The current data shows over 28 million affected with Covid-19, and over 500,000 dead.

Despite the number of studies confirming the benefit of direct cash payments, Congress more than half of whom are millionaires, just debated the issue for months.  Questions about socialism, and whether the cost is affordable got most of the public's attention while not nearly enough light was shed on prioritized corporate interests. In the last year alone, we've witnessed a litany of corporate bailouts, the controversial Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), along with $4 trillion in leveraged funds for Wall Street firms.  In March 2020, the CARES Act passed with $1200 stimulus checks but since then Congress could only manage to agree on one additional $600 cash payout.  There was an opportunity last year when Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) proposed a federal “paycheck guarantee covering salaries for three months.  The proposal wasn't included for one of two reasons; Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) says the proposal is too costly while Rep. Pelosi placed blamed on Jayapal's non-compliance with House procedures. 

The new year, 2021 opened with yet another round of debates pushed by Senate Democrats for a $2000 cash payout as Senators prepared to override the presidential veto of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Senators turned their backs on working people and proceeded to override the veto unleashing $740 billion for military spending and nothing for working folk. 

Bear in mind that defense spending takes up more than half of discretionary spending – that’s $740 billion out of $1.3 trillion. That is considerably less funding available for education, healthcare, infrastructure, and housing, for example.  An amendment was proposed by the new Defense Spending Reduction Caucus to reduce the NDAA bill by just 10% or $74 billion. But the Lee-Pocan amendment failed with 139 Democrats joining 185 Republicans to vote the measure down. 

Consider these costs, an estimated $51.5 billion is spent annually to build and run bases abroad, and more than $150 billion annually to maintain the troops overseas.  The Scientific American says this about military spending: “There are plenty of reasons to cut the Pentagon’s budget, but its track record of profligate spending is among the most obvious. If the Pentagon were a private corporation, gross mismanagement would have forced it into bankruptcy years ago. Dysfunctional internal controls, aided and abetted by years of lax congressional and administration oversight, have enabled it to waste tens of billions of dollars annually, and the last 20 years are littered with a parade of overpriced, botched and bungled projects.

David Vine has written extensively on the pivotal role of military bases to American imperialism with, Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World and, The United States of War: A Global History of America’s Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State.  During an interview, Vine is asked about imperialism: “…U.S. military bases are, in my mind, a largely overlooked tool of U.S. imperial power since World War II. U.S. military bases have, since World War II, occupied dozens of countries and, at times, have actually numbered even more than the 800 today, and they’ve been a major tool by which the United States government has been able to exercise power and control over local governments [and] over local people to advance [the] economic and political interests of … U.S. corporations [and] U.S. elites.”

The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) has been waging a relentless campaign that draws attention to U.S. military intervention, particularly the role of the African Command or AFRICOM, in the affairs of African nations.  Their campaign demands are clear; complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Africa, demilitarization of the African continent, closure of U.S. bases throughout the world, and that the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) oppose AFRICOM and conduct hearings on AFRICOM’s impact on the African continent, with the full participation of members of U.S. and African civil society.  BAP’s work also includes abolishing nuclear weapons, drone strikes, economic sanctions and the 1033 program that militarizes US police departments.  They recently co-sponsored a virtual webinar, hosted by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom-U.S. Section, “AFRICOM and Human Rights in Africa addressing US militarism, the $740 billion and its link to the wide disparities suffered by Black working people.  Their webinar reminds us of Congress’ real priorities, as well as the neoliberal forces at work for wealthy and corporate elites.  But more importantly, their campaign continues a tradition in Black Liberation movements that historically critiqued, organized and linked US imperialism, US foreign policy, and inflated military budgets to the daily struggles of the poor and working folk. 

Additional Resources and Reading

"...The Department of Defense is the Federal Government’s largest agency and one of the most complex organizations in the world. With more than 1.3 million active duty service members, 750,000 civilian personnel, and more than 811,000 National Guard and Reserve service members, the DoD is the nation’s largest employer. As one of the nation’s largest health-care providers, DoD’s TRICARE program serves approximately 9.4 million beneficiaries. The DoD, which operated with a base budget of approximately $551 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2017, executes a multibillion-dollar global supply chain and manages a 5 million-item inventory.  DoD is also one of the largest holders of real estate, managing a global portfolio that consists of more than 568,000 assets (buildings and structures), located at nearly 4,800 sites worldwide, covering 27.2 million acres of property..." Defense Department


The Cost of War Project, The Watson Institute for International & Public Affairs at Brown University,

The Cost of War FACT SHEET, The Watson Institute for International & Public Affairs at Brown University

Radical Black Peace Activism in the Black Liberation MovementBy Charisse Burden-Stelly February 2018

Black Alliance for Peace campaign

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