America COMPETES Act Ignores Social Needs, Feeds Tensions With China: Analysis

NPP Pressroom

Common Dreams
Brett Wilkins

A researcher at a progressive think tank warned Monday that a bill passed last week by the House of Representatives "stokes future U.S.-China conflict" while prioritizing spending on militarized technology at the expense of "urgent human needs." 

The analysis, authored by Ashik Siddique of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, calls the America COMPETES Act—which on Friday passed the House by a vote of 222-210—"part of a dangerous trend of feeding tensions between the U.S. and China." 

"The bill is framed heavily in terms of national security and competition with China and could easily pave the way for boosting the already massive military budget in years to come," Siddique asserts. 

The measure "is also a sign of failed priority-setting by people in government," he argues. "A country that refuses to contribute enough to global vaccine efforts, and where leaders fail over and over to secure funding for clean energy, has bigger problems than China's industrial growth."

"The America COMPETES bill would authorize hundreds of billions of dollars in new federal spending on initiatives intended to boost the United States in its competition with the world's other largest economy, even while other critical components of the U.S. economy are chronically underfunded," Siddique contends.

Taking aim at the bill's allocation of $52 billion in incentives for domestic semiconductor manufacturing over the next five years—the CHIPS for America Act—Siddique laments that "our government can fund billions for making computer chips, but can barely spend a dime to expand domestic manufacturing of clean energy against the climate crisis."

Siddique also calls the bill's $2 billion proposed expenditure on a "public-private partnership" in which the U.S. Department of Defense and corporations would produce microelectronic products "a blatant grab for more profits from an agency with a $778 billion budget, half of which already goes to corporate contractors."

The author warns that the Senate version of the America COMPETES Act is "much more openly militaristic," and that the two iterations must be reconciled before being sent to President Joe Biden's desk. 

"That means the bill can still get worse, as labor and environmental provisions included by Democrats in COMPETES are likely to be threatened in reconciliation, while components of the Senate bill that stoke military competition and domestic racism may still survive," Siddique writes. "But prioritizing any version of the bill over all the ongoing crises that people are dealing with today in the U.S. shows that getting an edge over China is apparently our government's most urgent priority."