On April 9th, the Biden administration announced their request for a $715 billion Pentagon budget for the 2022 fiscal year, which is a $9 million increase from the Trump budget that was proposed for the 2021 fiscal year. The entire defense budget that was requested by the Biden administration totaled $753 billion.
To put this number into a quick perspective, the Department of Housing and Urban Development projects that it would cost $20 billion to end homelessness in the United States right now.
Not only is this moral and achievable, it is actually cheaper for the government to invest in this in the long run. It is estimated that it costs around $35,578 per year for every person who suffers from chronic homelessness due to jailing, emergency response, and crisis services expenses. On the other hand, it is estimated that permanent supportive housing would cost only around $12,800 a year per person and would help with a wide range of health and living standards for homeless people.
So, why does the United States not do this with the money that we have? Why not end homelessness? Why not provide free healthcare for everyone? Why not end food insecurity? Why not help people?
It is simply because the United States does not care about fixing these issues or the millions of people that have to suffer and endure these tragic and unfortunate lifestyles. In fact, these situations come about because of U.S. imperialism, capitalism, and the influence and power of the military industrial complex.
The United States defense spending is more than the combined spending of the next 10 countries on the list, with almost all of them being our allies. In addition to this, every single country on the list, besides the United States, has universal, free healthcare at the point of service for every citizen. Hmm, it almost seems like reducing defense spending by a certain percent and putting it towards healthcare will still leave the United States with a strong military and also provide much needed healthcare to millions who go without it, but what do I know?
This point ties directly into the long history of U.S. imperialism and the power of the military industrial complex. The insanely high defense spending, along with military bases on six continents, decades-long occupations of various countries, and the overthrowing of many democratically elected governments all over the world has indicated the priorities of the United States for quite a long time.
It is always ironic to me when people argue for Medicare for All, free college, longer maternity leave, higher minimum wage, and a generally improved quality of life through other similar policies and the classic Conservative response is always, “Well, how are we going to pay for all of that?” But yet we see an annual defense budget that is 37 times more than what it would cost to end all homelessness in this country, and not a single Conservative will use this same argument to question how we can afford that.
It all comes down to priorities. Engaging in endless, unnecessary, illegal, and destructive wars in the Middle East means more to some people than making sure people at home have healthcare. And it is always under the guise of something like the threat of “weapons of mass destruction” or the need for the US to keep peace and democracy that keeps us there for far too long, and even question why we found ourselves there in the first place. Time and time again we are reminded that these are just lies perpetrated by the military industrial complex to try and hide the real reasons for being there for decades.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle will run on a plethora of policy positions that are focused on working families and achieving an equitable society, but as soon as they enter office, all of that goes out the window. While they claim to fight for ending wars or making healthcare more affordable, they will simultaneously approve of bills that give the Department of Defense its highest budget in modern history or give Big Pharma even more control on the healthcare industry and then veto bills that would actually give some power back to the people.
It does not matter what politicians run on or what they say in their 45-second TV interviews with a media outlet; it only matters what they actually vote yes or no on money going to. It is our budgets that reflect our priorities, because nobody would give money to something that they don’t deem as important.
Even in my home state of Arizona, the transition from prioritizing people-centered policy positions to elitist policy positions is painfully clear. When Kyrsten Sinema was running for a U.S. House seat in 2014, she ran on a very strong pro-union and pro-worker platform that easily got her elected in a traditionally conservative district. Fast forward seven years later and as a Senator from Arizona, she recently voted against a provision to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 and held a press conference where she said that her main concern in the fields of commerce and labor is the opinions of the business owners and not the workers.
Stories like that are way too common in the United States. People will build grassroots and people-centered campaigns only to get elected and then be given hundreds of thousands of dollars by the same corporations. Once this happens, these same politicians will continue to say that they are fighting for equality, democracy, and workers, but in reality, this is never the case. They vote against bills that would help working-class families and continuously give more power, higher tax breaks, and civil immunity to the corporations that are seeing huge profit increases, even and especially during a pandemic.
Words mean a lot. Actions mean more. The rhetoric of a politician means nothing unless the bills they vote for and the areas where they decide money should be allocated to are in line with what they promise. It is time for us to recognize the United States as being an oligarchic society that is controlled by a few at the top and the suppression of millions at the bottom in the sole pursuit of profits, which is the result and perpetuation of the dangerous and exploitative capitalism that exists in America today.