Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, campaigns at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. (Photo: Preston Ehrler/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
In a scathing op-ed for the Washington Post Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders took aim at Republican and Democratic "deficit hawks" who claim the U.S. cannot afford to guarantee healthcare to all, make higher education tuition-free, or fund other crucial domestic priorities but have no issue with voting to hand the Pentagon $738 billion.
"I find it ironic that when I and other progressive members of Congress propose legislation to address the many unmet needs of workers, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor, we are invariably asked, 'How will we pay for it?'" wrote Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. "Yet we rarely hear that question with regard to huge increases in military spending, tax breaks for billionaires, or massive subsidies for the fossil fuel industry."
As Common Dreams reported last week, Sanders—in a joint statement with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.)—announced his opposition to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, sweeping legislation that increases the Pentagon budget by $22 billion and sets aside money for the creation of President Donald Trump's long-sought "Space Force."
The House, with the support of 188 Democrats, passed the NDAA last week. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure as early as Tuesday, and Trump has indicated he will sign the measure.
Sanders wrote Tuesday that "at a time when we have massive levels of income and wealth inequality; when half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck; when more than 500,000 Americans are homeless; and when public schools throughout the country are struggling to pay their teachers a livable salary, it is time to change our national priorities."
When it comes to giving the Pentagon $738 billion—even more money than it requested—there is a deafening silence within Congress and the ruling elites about what our nation can and cannot afford. Congress will just authorize and appropriate all of this money without one penny in offsets, no questions asked.
I find it curious that few of the "deficit hawks" are asking if it is fiscally prudent to be spending more on defense than the next 10 countries combined—more than half of our nation's discretionary budget.
And there is little discussion taking place as to why the Pentagon—riddled with fraud, cost overruns and corporate price fixing—is the only major agency of government that has not successfully undergone an independent audit.
Sanders said he is running for president in 2020 "because it's time for a new vision for America and a new set of priorities."
"Instead of massive spending on a bloated military budget, tax breaks for billionaires, and huge subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, we need to invest in the working families of this country and protect the most vulnerable," the senator wrote. "We need a government that represents all of us, not just the corporate elite."