Debt ceiling deal once again shows misguided spending priorities
The deal will ostensibly decrease nondefense spending with expenditure caps while allowing the already bloated defense budget to increase, creating more underserved vets down the line.
Money talks in U.S. politics.
In fact, money is everything — and don’t forget that when politicians claim to honor veterans this Memorial Day.
That’s the main takeaway after President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Saturday reached a deal suspending the debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on the country’s debt on June 5.
Not that the worst-case scenario was ever likely. But we love some drama and conflict, something also evidenced by the country’s inability to keep to itself and shed its militaristic ego.
Biden and the California Republican’s deal is reported to ostensibly decrease nondefense spending with expenditure caps while allowing the already bloated defense budget to increase, albeit slightly.
But let’s cut to the chase.
Limiting the growth of social programs won’t help veterans who are supposedly being honored on this day, and increasing defense spending further is simply adding lighter fluid to the interminable fire that is the nation’s bellicose foreign policy.
The deal is yet to pass, and the White House is courting Democrats ahead of an expected House vote on Wednesday by asserting the deal could have been worse.
Still, it is sure to receive pushback from progressives in the party who have fought to strengthen social programs.
And, of course, self-proclaimed fiscal watchdogs in the Republican Party have already begun to criticize the deal for not including enough spending cuts.
Finger-pointing won’t really cut it in this situation.
Both parties contribute to the consistently poor fiscal policy in this country, particularly in regard to allowing the military budget to prosper regardless of whether the country is actually at war.
Nearly half of the country’s discretionary spending goes toward the military, and it spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined.
In general, nondefense spending under the agreement reached Saturday would remain at just less than $704 billion while defense spending would increase by about 3.5% to $886 billion.
Nondefense spending would increase by 1% in 2025, after which a dozen spending bills would need to be passed in the divided Congress to prevent spending cuts across the board, POLITICO reported.
The kicker here is that, by increasing defense spending, taxpayer money is going to fuel war hawks' desire to keep us in conflict worldwide — and potentially get involved in more.
More money for foreign conflicts. More money to needlessly send troops overseas to get into more decades-long wars that are conducted under the guise of patriotism and national security.
Even isolationists would agree money needs to be allocated for the military, but the country’s exuberant defense budget is nonsensical.
Meanwhile, few aspects of the deal actually benefit veterans, who bear the brunt of the country’s foreign policy.
That includes funding medical care for veterans to the level that Biden initially proposed in his budget.
The main concession by McCarthy is that veterans and the homeless would be excluded from measures that would increase work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, HuffPost reported.
Unless an individual qualifies, the age threshold for work requirements would be increased from 49 to 54 years old, meaning more older Americans would need to work, volunteer or participate in a training program if they want access to benefits for longer than three months.
Basically, it's a scaled-back attack on social programs.
The silver lining is that the provision would sunset in 2030, and the exemptions would curb the impact of the new age threshold.
But the agreement would still do more damage, requiring additional work activity among families receiving benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides cash benefits to households in need.
While it is reported that that change would not impact families with children, it further demonstrates the unfortunate result of the give-and-take negotiations that are behind these deals.
While those tactics are expected in fiscal policy discussions, they are applied in the wrong areas.
A nation’s fiscal irresponsibility should not play a role in limiting the aid that families and individuals in need are able to receive.
Yet it absolutely should prompt leaders to reevaluate what can be done to limit spending. And defense spending should be the first on the budgetary chopping block.
Just because the U.S. is a nation founded upon conflict and has established itself as a military superpower due to force does not mean that it has to keep doing so.
Year after year — hundreds of billions of dollars at a time — the war machine continues, and more veterans become homeless, struggle with substance abuse and suffer from mental health issues as a result.
Or they end up dead, becoming another statistic on Memorial Day each year.
Through an insatiable desire for military and economic dominance, the country has thrown itself into conflicts and killed millions for the sake of oil alone.
If anything, money used to superfluously shore up the military, enforce immoral immigration policies and bail out financial institutions should be redirected toward social programs.
Rather than tearing down other nations as a display of dominance, the U.S. could easily use it to build up those in need and working-class citizens.
They are the foundation of the country. And it only makes sense to rebuild it from the bottom up.
To put it in terms that may be easier to comprehend for those who only see dollar signs: The return on the investment would be worthwhile.