The massive general budget bill passed by Congress and endorsed by President Joe Biden will cut social spending in real terms, while increasing military spending and providing a new stream of funds for America’s proxy war in Ukraine against Russia. .
The omnibus law was approved by the Senate on Thursday afternoon by a vote of 68 in favor and 29 against, with the support of 50 Democrats and 18 Republicans. The bill increases national spending by $42 billion, or 6 percent, and increases military spending by $76 billion, about 10 percent.
The legislation only takes into account discretionary federal spending, which is subject to congressional action each year. An even bigger sum goes to automatic expenses, the so-called entitlements, which include payments from Social Security and Medicare, other small retirement plans and benefits, and interest on the federal debt, which will rise sharply next year when the Federal Reserve raises rates.
In addition to the figures of $858 billion for the military and $772 billion for domestic programs, there is another $80 billion in emergency spending, more than half for Ukraine, and the rest to fund responses to US natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires. . The White House’s proposal of $9 billion to fund future responses to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been scrapped.
Given that the US inflation rate is 7%, the 6% increase in domestic spending is a cut in real terms, which means less real resources for health, education, housing, public transport and what is left of the programs of social benefits, such as food stamps and home heating allowances.
Instead, the budget increases military spending by 10%, to a record $858 billion. There is an additional $45 billion in aid to Ukraine, combining financial support for the bankrupt kyiv regime and direct military support. The total war expenditure thus exceeds $900,000 million. An increase next year of similar proportions would push the military budget above $1 trillion for the first time, a truly staggering sum.
The bipartisan budget deal between Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer and Republican leader Mitch McConnell established for the first time that domestic spending would increase at a significantly slower rate than military spending.
McConnell gloated after the terms were made public early Tuesday morning, citing the much larger increase in military spending compared to domestic spending. “This is an impressive result for Republican dealmakers,” he said, noting the “substantial increase in real dollars” in military spending and the “substantial cut in real dollars” in nonmilitary spending.
The top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, stated, “While not the package that Republicans would have written on our own,” the Pentagon appropriation “provides our military with the necessary resources to deal with China, Russia and other imminent threats’.
Senator Bernie Sanders lamented: ‘Defense spending is outrageous, too high. But at the end of the day, I don’t want the government to shut down, and there are some very important provisions in it.’
It was not, however, that Democrats caved in to Republican threats to block approval of the bus and force a partial government shutdown. In fact, the Democrats enthusiastically embraced the huge military increase, and no longer advocate even nominal parity between domestic and military spending.
With the war in Ukraine, the Democratic Party has openly turned into a party of rabid militarism. So fervent is the Democratic embrace of the proxy war against Russia — demonstrated in the enthusiastic reception of President Volodymyr Zelensky in his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night — that the fascist right wing of the Republican Party has been able to pose as the only anti-war faction in official politics.
The Pentagon funding includes a 4.6% pay increase for uniformed military personnel, and increases in virtually every area of the acquisition of new weapons systems, for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Air Force. Marine Corps, including 19 new warships and 69 new F-35 fighters (average cost $80 million). The Department of Defense will also spend the most in its history on research and development, $140 billion, to devise and produce new weapons systems.
Much of what is classified as national spending is not spent on social needs like health care, education, and transportation, but on surveillance and law enforcement, or on operations in support of the US military and foreign policy. This includes $61 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (up 5%), $152 billion for ‘Military Construction and Veterans Affairs’, a whopping 20% more, $60 billion for the State Department (6% more) and $39 billion for the Department of Justice, which includes the FBI and other federal police operations.
There are also sizable sums going directly into the coffers of big companies and banks, including funds for the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and the Treasury.
The proportion of the budget devoted to activities that could benefit workers is well below 20%.
Even this spending is largely offset by provisions that will lead to further reductions in social benefits. The omnibus legislation allows states to start kicking people out of Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance for the poor, starting next April, when states can start reviewing recipients’ eligibility.
Eligibility has been frozen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Republican-ruled state governments have been demanding the restoration of their power to exclude recipients from benefits, based on more draconian eligibility requirements or on direct funding cuts.
Despite rhetoric to the contrary from Sanders and others, Democratic negotiators dropped a proposal to restore the child tax credit to levels that prevailed in 2020-2021 as part of pandemic relief. This measure expired in January 2022 and will not be reinstated due to opposition from Republicans and some right-wing Democrats, such as Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
The bill would expand contributions to 401(k) plans (private retirement funds) by requiring most companies to automatically enroll employees and offering a federal match equal to 50% of the first $2,000 in contributions . This will have the effect of directing even more worker income to the Wall Street casino, providing a new source of funding for the financial markets.
The only piece of legislation that could get rid of a Republican filibuster, the omnibus bill included not only appropriations for all federal departments and agencies through September 30, 2023, but many other bills on issues totally unrelated to the funding from the federal government.
The most important was a revision of the Election Act of 1887, the law that regulates the certification of electoral votes cast in a presidential election, which was distorted by lawyers for Donald Trump to provide legal cover to overturn his 2020 defeat.
The bill explicitly states that the vice president has only a ceremonial role in certifying electoral votes by Congress, and cannot interfere by disallowing any state’s electoral votes. It also raises the number of legislators needed to force a vote on a state’s voter certification from one senator and one member of the House of Representatives to one-fifth of the members of each house. It also specifies that only one list of voters, certified by the governor, will be presented for each state.
In an expression of the anti-Chinese frenzy in Washington, another provision bans the Chinese-made app TikTok on all government cellphones, laptops and other electronic devices.
There are countless other special provisions inserted by senators and congressmen in response to appeals from business lobbies, lubricated by lavish campaign contributions. They are small only in comparison to the total of $1.7 trillion, but very valuable to the corporate interests that promoted them.
Boeing, for example, was exempted on December 27 from meeting the safety requirements of the new models of its 737 MAX aircraft. The original model was grounded in two disastrous accidents that killed 346 people.
Many more such provisions will be discovered and made public as journalists and others investigate the 4,155-page omnibus bill.
(Originally published in English on December 22, 2022)