Pentagon Funding for War and Weapons Passes, COVID-19 Relief for Workers Does Not

On December 11, Congress overwhelmingly passed $740.5 billion for the Pentagon, its weapons and wars. This is for one year only. The vote in the House of Representatives for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was 335-78 and in the Senate 84-13. Both are enough for the two-thirds majority needed to override a threatened veto by President Trump. He has ten days (not including Sundays), which means by December 23, to veto, sign or allow it to become law without his signature.

Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee made clear the pro-war stand of Congress when it comes to public funds: "There's a reason this bill gets done every single year for the last 59 years: It's the most important bill we'll do all year." The same is not true for COVID-19 relief.

According to Inhofe and the vote in Congress more generally, it is Pentagon funding "that makes our country more secure, and it supports our troops who defend it." The people, through their broad and many demonstrations, have raised that security is not guaranteed through the use of force and violence, abroad or at home. Affirming the peoples' rights, including rights to health care, housing, jobs, safety and peace, is what makes the country and world more secure, not troops and weapons.

The United States has by far the largest military budget on the planet, more than the next 10 countries combined. When funding for homeland security, policing and incarceration is included, it accounts for about 64.5 per cent of all federal discretionary funds. Various additional sources of funds for war in the general budget means the Pentagon funds are more than $1 trillion every year.

The vote by Congress reflects the war economy and war government of the U.S., which the president necessarily safeguards. Biden will do so, just as Obama, Bush and others did before him. It is an economy and government that guarantee funding for war and aggression and all kinds of interference abroad, militarized policing and violence at home, while leaving the well-being of the people to chance.

Horrific Threat of Government Shutdown Continues

While on December 18, Congress passed a two-day stop-gap measure which prolongs the threat of a full government shutdown until Monday, December 21, it remains unclear if agreement will be reached Sunday, December 20, for the omnibus budget bill or any funding for COVID-19 relief.

Congress passed the the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the Pentagon but did not pass the overall budget or any COVID-19 relief. Instead another continuing resolution was passed to provide government funding until December 18, now extended to December 21. While this averted a government shutdown on December 11 and then again on December 18, it does nothing to ease the fears and anxiety of the people concerning their jobs, let alone funding for COVID-19 relief. This would include prioritizing funds for the people, such as free health care for all in need, free personal protective equipment (PPE), testing and other aspects.

Actions by health care and other frontline workers and many community organizations are also demanding a budget that guarantees basic human rights, not policing and more pay-the-rich schemes of various kinds for the giant monopolies. Were the budget to be decided by the people there is no doubt funding for the Pentagon would be greatly cut, the pay-the-rich schemes stopped and funding increased for social services.

The estimated $300 billion needed to cover the $1,200 cheques previously issued to most adults, very insufficient funding, would take just half the Pentagon budget. Many other countries provide monthly cheques covering up to 80 to 90 per cent of wages. Demands are also being made to ensure everyone in need, including the millions of undocumented immigrants and their children, is included in any cash payments.

With an economy as wealthy as the U.S., the problem is not a lack of funds, it is the direction of the country based on a war economy and government. It is private control of the wealth produced by working people by a handful of oligarchs for their own private interests. Indeed, the country's 651 billionaires have gained so much wealth just during the coronavirus pandemic that they could fully pay for a one-time $3,000 stimulus cheque for every child, woman and man in the United States -- and still be wealthier than they were before the crisis.

Refusing to address this reality of self-serving private ownership and the war economy, elected officials are making more threats that no relief or budget will be passed December 18, despite soaring COVID-19 cases and deaths, now more than 300,000, and hospitals packed and unable to provide for patients or workers. It is a crime.

Decision making needs to be in the hands of the people. Elected officials need to get out of the way or join the people as they step up organizing for their right to govern and decide.

(Photos: TML, VOR, California Nurses Assn)

This article was published in

Volume 50 Number 49 - December 19, 2020

Article Link:
Pentagon Funding for War and Weapons Passes, COVID-19 Relief for Workers Does Not


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