The Pentagon’s Money Tree

Congress is turning its attention to the National Defense Authorization Act this week, the massive budget legislation that funds the Department of Defense. Despite the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan, Congress is angling to boost the Pentagon budget by over $20 billion dollars.

Big Spenders

Unlike every other industrialized country, the United States spends more than 50 percent of its discretionary budget on its military while public services like public health, healthcare, education, and infrastructure are grossly underfunded. This occurs regardless of which party is in power and doesn’t even factor in defense-related spending in other sectors, such as the Department of Energy or Veterans’ Affairs.

Lockheed Martin’s F-35A

The reason for our bloated defense budget is because war profiteers spend obscene amounts of money influencing elections and policy agendas. Five of the nation’s largest defense contractors–Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics–have collectively spent over $2.5 billion lobbying the federal government in the past two decades. Nearly three-quarters of these lobbyists are former federal employees and Capitol Hill staffers, giving them an advantage as they work their relationships and cheat the system. These “investments” in lobbying benefit these corporations countless times over in arms sales by keeping the budget and legislation exactly as is, forcing the cycle of war to continue.

Breaking Down the Defense Budget

The 2022 budget is projected to be $768 billion, another $23.9 billion over this year’s budget.

As a point of comparison, we could replace every lead pipe in America for $45 billion, end homelessness for all 580,466 people in the United States for $20 billion. Power every one of the 127.59 million households in the United States with clean wind and solar energy for $80 billion, and provide 12 weeks of paid family leave for new parents or people caring for a sick parent for $58.2 billion  And we would still have $564.8 billion left over for the Pentagon — more than double what any other country in the world spends on “defense.” 

It’s unconscionable for politicians to argue that we don’t have the funding to implement programs designed to support the American people and reduce inequality when they are letting the Pentagon light money on fire. Just to name a few examples:

Then there are the outrageous salaries of defense contractors. The Pentagon has spent more than half of its money, about $7 trillion, on for-profit contractors since 9/11. Lockheed Martin received 70 percent of its revenues from the federal government in 2020.

As long as military contractors keep spending money in our politics and holding Congress in a death grip, politicians will continue to find new ways to increase the National Defense Authorization Act year after year. True de-escalation won’t happen until we STAMP BIG MONEY OUT OF POLITICS!