The following article was published on December 13 and updated December 26.
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed the highest military spending package since World War II: $777.7 billion. The $777.7 military package passed by a 363-to-70 vote, getting 194 “yes” votes, versus just 19 “no” votes among Republicans. Among Democrats, 169 members of the majority bloc voted “yes,” while only 51 voted “no.” The US Senate passed the bill in an 89-10 vote on December 15 and it was signed by Joe Biden on December 27. This budget is 5 percent higher than that under the Trump administration and gives the military $24 billion more than Joe Biden requested.
In other words, it was overwhelmingly supported among both Democrats and Republicans.
In a Congress that has been criticized for being unable to “get things done” and for being unable to “reach across the aisle,” this budget makes clear that even the most bitter partisan divides can be bridged by consensus around strengthening the massive military industrial complex.
The budget includes $122.1 billion for “training, installation support, and support to allies and partners.” This is the kind of “training and support” that the U.S. has provided to put down leftist movements and institute coups. Just last week, Biden invited Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan coup leader, to the “Summit for Democracy,” making clear the kind of “allies and partners” that the U.S. will train and support.
The budget also allocated 28 billion for nuclear weapons funding. This means increasing the United States’ already massive and potentially world-ending nuclear arsenal.
Additionally, the budget includes $12.3 billion for ground force weapons and combat vehicles, even though Biden declared the end of an era of ground wars with the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Furthermore, this military budget includes the largest amount ever requested for research into new and more efficient death machines including AI, cyberwarfare, and the development of “killer robots.”
According to Defense News, the legislation contains “12 F/A-18 Super Hornets that were not requested; five more Boeing F-15EX jets than the request for 17 total; and 13 ships total—including two attack submarines and two destroyers―for five more than the request.”
This is a wonderful Christmas gift to the military industrial complex, courtesy of our tax dollars. It will pour federal resources into the pockets of defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, who will manufacture and provide the weapons ordered by the Pentagon. This includes $3.8 billion allocation for new hypersonic weapons, a 20 percent increase from what Donald Trump invested. It includes $160 million to buy the Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) from Lockheed Martin, even though the ARRW has never completed a successful flight test.
It’s no wonder that Lockheed Martin stocks are up seven points in the last five days. The President and Chief Executive Officer of Lockheed Martin makes a whopping 26 million dollars a year.
This increase in the military budget is a clear warning to China, and highlights the escalating tensions with the new global power. While some people mistakenly saw Biden’s retreat from Afghanistan as a step towards ending “forever wars”, it was just a step in a pivot to China. That pivot includes both “diplomacy” — like Joe Biden’s cynical “Democracy Summit” — and the threat of the U.S. military, equipped with increasingly more efficient and destructive war machines.
While some might call this an “arms race” with China, it isn’t. The U.S. is armed to the teeth— much more so than China, Russia, or any other country in the world. The U.S. 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.
Bill Hartung, speaking on Democracy Now, said that the U.S. “has 13 times as many active nuclear warheads in its stockpile as China does. We’ve got 11 aircraft carriers of a type that China doesn’t have. We’ve got 800 U.S. military bases around the globe while China has three. So this whole idea that China and Russia are military threats to the United States has primarily been manufactured to jump up the military budget.”
This military budget is par for the course for the United States. There is always money for the military, never for the working class. It would cost $22.5 billion to fund 12 weeks of paid family leave for a year— a mere fraction of the military budget. It would cost $25 billion to make enough additional vaccines to vaccinate the world— also small potatoes compared to the military budget.
This is the same Congress that won’t pass even a minimal increase to the minimum wage, which hasn’t been raised since 2009. The same Congress that thinks it’s just too expensive to include dental or vision coverage in Medicare. While there is always money for the military, there just isn’t money to forgive student debt. As the coronavirus surges, the Democrats claim there isn’t enough money to mass produce free coronavirus tests for everyone or to provide paid sick leave.
When it comes to healthcare, education, and other social spending that would benefit the working class, there is never enough money. But there is always enough to murder people abroad, or at the very least to pose that threat. And these are the taxes and working class people pay every year, not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of U.S. corporations that profit from the continual expansion of military imperialism.
As Lenin outlines in his seminal text Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, imperialism isn’t actually a policy choice but rather an integral part of the capitalist system in which we live. It includes not only the brutal war crimes that the U.S. commits or the bombs dropped on a regular basis, but also the economic policies by the U.S.-led IMF and World Bank of debt and privatization that funnel money back to imperialist countries.
Imperialism occurs not “out of particular malice,” as Lenin explained, but because violent methods are “needed” by the capitalists and their governments to ensure more profits. That’s what, in the end, the military budget is all about. It’s a warning to China and a way of defending not “the American people”, but American corporations.
This rings true for all stripes of Democrats and Republicans. Even though “the Squad” voted against this military budget, they have voted in favor of similar budgets in the past. That’s why Bowman joined Republicans in Iron Dome funding, and why AOC voted present.
This tells us everything you need to know about the Democrats. They aren’t vehicles of social change, but vehicles for capitalist imperialism— responsible for murder, hunger and oppression abroad, alongside anti-worker policies and policies that oppress people of color and migrants at home.
It’s not necessarily malice; it’s what keeps the system running and ensures the steady stream of profits for U.S. corporations.