Fighting for a U.S. federal budget that prioritizes peace, economic security and shared prosperity
A month into the Israeli military’s onslaught on Gaza, the suffering is tremendous. More than 14,000 in Gaza have died, most of them children and women. In October, a human rights group recorded an average of 100 children dying there — the equivalent of five Uvaldes — every day.
Into that hell, President Biden is proposing that the U.S. send more weapons. The U.S. already sends Israel more than $3.8 billion a year in military aid. He has proposed an additional $14 billion as part of a staggering $105 billion military package he’s asked Congress to pass.
The kind of mass destruction we’re seeing in Gaza is unimaginable to most of us in the United States. But we see suffering here too — in the form of homelessness, the opioid epidemic and increasingly common catastrophic weather events. Plenty of us feel the struggle of affording necessities like housing, heat, health care and child care.
The weapons and military aid that Biden and many in Congress want to send to Israel also represent resources that are desperately needed to address problems like these.
Those resources matter. During the worst of the pandemic, wildly successful government programs succeeded in cutting U.S. child poverty in half. Instead of taking that win, Congress allowed those programs to lapse, plunging millions of U.S. children back into poverty. That means more children once again going hungry, facing homelessness and worse in numbers not seen since before the pandemic.
Meanwhile, many millions of Americans will again face the loss of paychecks, benefits and government services in early 2024 if Congress doesn’t agree on a way to fund the government past the temporary deal it just passed.
Amid these crises at home, Biden’s proposed $105 billion military aid package would send more weapons and military aid to Ukraine and Israel — and additional billions in military aid to countries in the Indo-Pacific for a war with China that hasn’t even happened.
The $14 billion for the Israeli military would come with no strings attached, even with evidence that Israeli forces have indiscriminately bombed civilians, targeted hospitals and severely limited food and water. This means that more children will die with the support of the U.S. government — in direct violation of U.S. and international laws designed to prevent funding human rights abuses abroad.
When it comes to funding our needs at home, the plan presented by House Republicans is even worse — it pairs that $14 billion in weapons and military aid to Israel with a similarly sized budget cut to the IRS. They didn’t do the math on that plan. Cutting the IRS budget will actually cost more than it saves, as more wealthy tax evaders will be able to get away with not paying taxes like the rest of us.
Biden’s weapons package isn’t play money — and we really do need more of it here at home. The budget deal that Congress and the White House agreed to back in June would have cut $63 billion from domestic government programs. The $105 billion Biden wants for weapons could restore all of those cuts and then some.
All this comes on top of a much, much larger overall military budget. The $886 billion military budget working its way through Congress is larger than what we were spending at the height of the Vietnam War, Cold War or Korean War even after adjusting for inflation. If more military spending could provide global stability, we’d already have it.
The same is true of the aid we already send the Israeli government. We’ve provided Israel with about 15 percent of its military budget every year — billions of dollars that didn’t prevent the horrific Hamas attacks of Oct. 7.
Sending even more military aid now is a lose-lose proposition: It would enable the war to go longer and cost more lives while depriving us of resources at home. The temporary truce and hostage return in Israel and Gaza is a glimpse of what could be. Polling shows that most Americans, in fact, support a permanent cease-fire in Gaza — the only way to stop the deaths of more children and other innocent people.
Withholding additional military aid, at least while Israel is in violation of international and U.S. law, could actually encourage that desperately needed agreement. That it would also leave more resources available to help here at home should only seal the deal.