Fighting for a U.S. federal budget that prioritizes peace, economic security and shared prosperity
"We continue to overinvest in defense while underinvesting in public health and so much more."
That's what Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said during Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing for Kathleen Hicks, President Joe Biden's nominee for deputy defense secretary.
"The size of the defense budget... has long been a concern of mine," said Warren, "but after the past year, watching more than 400,000 fellow Americans die, tens of millions unemployed due to Covid-19, millions more who are lined up at food banks, and even millions more who are on the threshold of losing their homes and being put out on the street, spending $740 billion dollars a year on this one piece of the federal budget is unconscionable."
"A budget is about priorities," said Warren. When the senator asked if the U.S. can reduce defense spending "without sacrificing our security," Hicks said no.
Even though "I certainly understand" how the coronavirus crisis "calls into question what the priorities are across our government," said Hicks, "I also... believe that we are a nation that can afford the defense that it needs to have."
"The focus on the top-line number can really obscure a more important conversation around what is it we want our military... to do," Hicks said, sidestepping Warren's point, which was that the national budget should reflect the issues that people in the U.S. want their representatives to focus on, like implementing policies to mitigate compounding public health, economic, and environmental emergencies.
"We can spend less on the military and obtain not only the same amount of security, but more," asserted Stephen Wertheim, deputy director of research and policy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and research scholar at Columbia University.
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace group CodePink, pointed out that Warren was the only lawmaker at the hearing to juxtapose the nation's bloated military budget with the surge in unmet social needs.
Those members of Congress were joined in supporting the National Defense Authorization Act by the majority of their fellow Republicans as well as the bulk of Democrats in the House and Senate, providing additional evidence of the extent to which most American lawmakers' priorities aren't aligned with those of the public.