PHOTOGRAPH BY RON SACHS/CNP/MEDIAPUNCH/IPX
On September 18, Elizabeth Warren, the much beloved poster child of the “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party, voted for a bill that authorizes $700 billion in defense funds. This includes $640 billion for the Pentagon and an additional $60 billion for military operations in countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. This bill increased military spending by $80 billion, which far surpasses the increase requested by America First President Trump ($54 billion). There were 8 no votes (against 89 yes votes) and three abstentions, but Warren was not one of them.
The defense policy bill (National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA) has passed 56 years in a row, and this time the vote was nearly unanimous, with both Republicans and Democrats supporting S.1519 and the massive increase in military spending it sets forth. It may not be surprising that both capitalist parties would vote for pro-imperialist policies, but Warren’s yes vote definitely flies in the face of her image as “anti-establishment.”
Warren, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and John McCain, chairman of the committee, are on the same side in ratifying a bill that takes more taxes from workers and funnels it into foreign wars, leading to more deaths of innocent people, sponsors Israel’s war against the Palestinians ($705 million), and invests additional hundreds of millions in anti-Russian military build-up in Ukraine and the Baltic ($600 million).
The senator attempts to minimize her incredibly reactionary decision by saying that the bill only authorizes but does not appropriate funds yet. She also claims that she will fight for non-defense spending increases later on when Congress votes on the entire budget. On her website, she boasts: “The defense bill has a long tradition of bipartisan cooperation and I was glad to join that tradition” and that “this NDAA will make a real, positive impact on the lives of Americans.”
Warren is certainly right to remind us that Republicans and Democrats are working together to put even more resources into building up the US military. Already, more than half of the discretionary budget goes to defense (and 17% of the entire budget), with only 6% going to medical care, transportation, and housing each, and a mere 2% going to education. Previously, the House of Representatives passed a version of the bill 344:81 with 117 Democrats backing H.R. 2810. That bill also includes $72 billion in excess of the $549 billion cap set by the Budget Control Act in 2011, which means that this limit will need to be increased.
The US already invests three times as much in defense as the second largest military spender, China, and ten times as much as Russia, the third biggest spender. With this recent NDAA, this gap between the world’s strongest imperial power and the rest will only grow. Elizabeth Warren’s support of US troops increases (to the Army, the Marine Corps, and the reserves), more expenditures in weapons manufacturing, and the “modernization”’ of the most advanced military apparatus in the world is an index of the lack of change that the Democratic Party is willing to make after its last defeat.
Elizabeth Warren proudly takes credit for helping to secure a number of amendments, including provisions for service members such as pay raises for the military, protection from debt collection, and easier access to student loans. What she does not mention is that several critical amendments were left out of the bill. With Warren’s tacit approval, an amendment that would block Trump’s ban on transgender servicepeople in the military and an amendment that would repeal the 2001 and 2002 war authorizations were not included.
The fact is that a large chunk of the money in the bill will go to Massachusetts. Given that the state employs more than 100,000 jobs in military related jobs, it is politically expedient for the senator to endorse funding for new construction, more research, and DOD operations in Massachusetts. However, if investing even more money in defense is Warren’s idea of how to make a “real, positive impact on the lives of Americans,” it is clear that her priorities are with the military industrial complex and its imperialist agenda, not with American workers.
Pledging to help the defense department “meet 21st century challenges,” Warren and her Democratic Party cronies do not flinch when they sign on to legislation that regularly outspends every precedent in plundering the pockets of the “hard-working Americans” whom they claim to represent. It does not seem to bother Warren one bit that this boost in defense funding is almost double the amount of money needed to make all public college and universities tuition free. Neither is she troubled by the blatant contradiction between her calls for cuts to the military budget and her actions when it comes to actual legislation in Congress. It seems, she knows very well that peddling empty rhetoric has worked for Democrats in the past, so why not for her.
This would have been a good time to take a stand against the decade-long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and against drone strikes throughout the world, to speak out against Trump’s show of aggression toward North Korea, and to advocate for the closing of American military bases abroad. Elizabeth Warren is not interested in that. It would have been a great time for progressive Democrats to make a case for the importance of reducing military spending in order to increase domestic spending. Except Elizabeth Warren is not all that interested.
Once again, Senator Warren, a “progressive” Democrat, demonstrates that she is no different from the establishment of both capitalist parties. She, like the rest of the Republicans and Democrats, supports exorbitant budgets that mean more imperialist wars, more deaths of innocent people, and the continued neglect of the basic needs of American workers at home.