Republicans are balking about debt implications for a new stimulus package, but they sang a different tune when the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was being voted on (”Second stimulus check updates: GOP, White House agree to testing funds; Mitch McConnell plans ‘handful’ of coronavirus aid bills,” July 22).
Maybe this is why: There are 681 full-time lobbyists on the payrolls of military contractors — but only 535 members of Congress. Military contractors spent over $112 million on lobbying in 2019. So it’s no surprise that about half of the massive Pentagon budget goes to private contractors.
“Bloated” doesn’t even begin to describe the current military budget; yet Congress is on track to increase it to $740 billion, from its current mind-boggling level of $718 billion. And we’ve spent $6 trillion dollars on endless and pointless wars, that have only made us more enemies and destabilized huge regions of the globe. Meanwhile, at home we are facing a “rental tsumani,” with millions expected to soon become newly homeless, and even more people not knowing where their next meal is coming from. But the CEO of Lockheed Martin is taking home a cool $20 million this year, from a company that is 90% taxpayer funded.
Senator Bernie Sanders in the Senate and Representatives Barbara Lee and Mark Pocan in the House put forward amendments to the NDAA to cut the proposed military budget by 10%, raising $74 billion for a grant program directed at local communities for health care, housing, education and other pressing needs.
Unfortunately, the amendments failed in both the House (on July 21) and Senate (on July 22). However, half of Maryland’s congressional delegation voted in favor of the amendments: Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin in the Senate, and John Sarbanes, Jamie Raskin and Kweisi Mfume in the House. These principled votes show that at least some members of Congress understand that our real security needs are not military threats; rather, current threats to America’s security include the global pandemic, related economic crisis, and the need to correct injustices that have created inequity and poverty on a massive scale.
In the face of these huge challenges to our real security, the Pentagon should not be consuming half of the Federal discretionary budget. The whole Maryland congressional delegation — not just half — needs to stop kow-towing to “Daddy Warbucks” and begin to truly represent the people of this state, rather than military contractors.
Jean Athey, Baltimore
The writer is the executive director of Maryland Peace Action.
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