'People Over Pentagon' Proposal Would Take $100 Billion From Pentagon to Fund Social Programs

NPP Pressroom

Common Dreams
Jessica Corbett

Progressive advocacy groups across the United States on Monday welcomed a new legislative proposal that would cut Pentagon spending for the next fiscal year by $100 billion and reallocate it toward top threats facing the nation that "are not military in nature."

"How come when it comes to funding the Pentagon, no one asks how are we going to pay for it, but when it comes to funding healthcare, suddenly the government is poor?"

Public Citizen president Robert Weissman thanked Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.)—co-chairs of the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus—for introducing the People Over Pentagon Act of 2022 to "advance our true national security interests."

"The Lee-Pocan bill disproves the claim that there's not money to feed the hungry, care for the sick, cut child poverty, or protect the planet," said Weissman, noting that "the Pentagon budget is racing toward $1 trillion annually, while free school lunch programs for 10 million children are set to expire in a few weeks."

Other backers of the bill also emphasized the significant need nationwide, in the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic and amid price gouging by major corporations across various industries.

"Cutting $100 billion from the Pentagon may seem dramatic, but frankly, it frees up the bare minimum needed for a down payment to address the social and political inequalities and crises that are a clear and pressing threat to our democracy," asserted Eric Eikenberry, government relations director at Win Without War.

Danielle Brian, executive director at Project On Government Oversight, framed the proposal as "a measured and sensible response to continued and unfettered financial mismanagement at the Pentagon, which has never passed a comprehensive financial audit."

Others—including MoveOn executive director Rahna Epting and Lindsay Koshgarian, program director at the National Priorities Project—highlighted how military contractors have benefited from the billions and billions of U.S. tax dollars poured into the Pentagon even as the needs of people are neglected year after year.

"At a time when Congress should be working around the clock to lower costs for people, the last thing it should do is continue to line the pockets of rich defense contractors," said Epting. "How come when it comes to funding the Pentagon, no one asks how are we going to pay for it, but when it comes to funding healthcare, suddenly the government is poor?"

Koshgarian suggested that "cutting $100 billion from the Pentagon budget would rein in the price gouging contractors and put money back into our communities where it's most needed."

Gaurav Madan, a senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S., pointed out that one of those priorities for new funding needs to be battling the climate emergency.

"It's past time that Congress prioritizes the needs of everyday people over wasteful Pentagon spending by rejecting the pathology of endless wars and fossil fuel addiction," he said, urging investment in adaptation and mitigation as well as the clean energy transition. "As our country struggles to reckon with an epidemic of violence, demilitarization is an important step toward protecting peoples' and planetary health."

The lawmakers echoed campaigners' messages, with Lee declaring that "for far too long, this country has put profits ahead of its people. Nowhere is that more apparent than in our Pentagon topline budget."

Noting the massive budget approved last year, Lee said that "meanwhile, our constituents continue to struggle with the cost of living and barriers to basic needs like housing and healthcare. It is time that we realign our priorities to reflect the urgent needs of communities across this country that are healing from a pandemic, ongoing economic insecurity, and an international energy crisis—none of which will be resolved through greater military spending."

Pocan pointed out that "the United States spends more on defense than the next nine countries combined and cutting it by $100 billion will still keep the United States safe at the top spot."

"The amount of money the defense industry convinces Congress to spend each year doesn't protect us from real threats like climate change, pandemics, or cyberattacks. It only lines contractors' pockets," he added. "Just imagine for once if we led the world in funding peace and not wars."