If Congress is looking for a place to cut spending, look no further! A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies found that an estimated $1.1 trillion, or 62 percent of federal discretionary spending, went to militarized programs over the past year.
That includes spending on things like war, weapons development, policing and prisons, and detention and deportation. Only 38 percent of the discretionary budget was left for investment in communities (things like education, childcare, affordable housing, and environmental programs).
As the United States hurtles toward debt default, the IPS report is a good reminder that if the Republican Party really wants to cut spending, it could do so quite easily. But rather than look to the single-largest drain on the public purse, Republicans want to impose harsh work requirements for Medicaid and food stamps, gut clean energy programs, and make life easier for fossil fuel companies..
“Threats to cut spending for vital domestic programs have featured prominently in the debt ceiling debate in recent weeks,” the IPS said in a press statement, “but spending on militarism has been almost entirely exempt from the discussion. Meanwhile, clawing back failed military, homeland security and law enforcement spending could instead fund programs and measures to address the true needs of American communities.”
The IPS report shows just how absurd our national budget priorities really are. Since 2001, discretionary spending on militarism has outpaced investments in communities two-to-one. Spending on federal law enforcement was twice that on childcare and early childhood education programs. Nuclear weapons? Four times what we spend on substance abuse and mental health. Perhaps most damning of all: For every $1 spent on diplomacy and humanitarian aid, the U.S. spent $16 on war and the military.
The report comes just days after a six-month investigation by CBS’s 60 Minutes found that “military contractors overcharge the Pentagon on almost everything.” And this year, about half of the monstrous $842 Pentagon budget will go to defense contractors. According to the IPS, the average taxpayer gave Pentagon contractors $1,087 in 2022.
Lindsay Koshgarian, one of the report’s co-authors, says, “Spending on militarism takes up the majority of the federal discretionary budget, and it has grown faster than all other spending. If we keep up these patterns, we are hurtling toward a future where we can’t afford the basics of a civilized society.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, of course, has said reconsidering military spending in the debt talks is off the table.