Massive Hike in Military Spending
Financed by Cuts in Health and Education
US House Passes $636 Billion Military
by Joe Kishore
With overwhelming bipartisan support,
the United States House of Representatives on Wednesday passed
a massive $636 billion military appropriations bill for 2010.
The bill includes some $128 billion for
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it does not fully fund the
Obama administration's escalation in Afghanistan, making likely
further appropriations for war spending next year.
The deployment of 30,000 additional US
troops is expected to cost $35 to $40 billion a year. On Wednesday,
the Pentagon announced that the first of the new troops ordered
to Afghanistan have begun to arrive.
All told, US military spending in 2010
will be close to $700 billion. If one adds the hundreds of billions
of dollars in military-related spending included in the budgets
of other departments, the total is as much as $1 trillion.
The overwhelming support for the bill,
which passed 395-34, demonstrates the bipartisan agreement in
Washington on the war policy of the Obama administration. The
vote comes shortly after President Barack Obama's Nobel Prize
speech, in which he outlined an expansion of US militarism.
Among the many separate provisions of
the bill is the allocation of $80 million to acquire more unmanned
Predator drones, currently being used to bomb both Afghanistan
and Pakistan. The administration is planning on expanding these
operations, including drone attacks against insurgents in the
Pakistani province of Baluchistan that might target the large
city of Quetta.
Only 23 Democrats voted against the bill,
joined by 11 Republicans. Among those voting for the measure was
House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (Democrat,
Wisconsin), who has postured as a critic of the Afghan escalation.
The Senate, which is currently discussing
Obama's health care overhaul, is expected to vote in support of
the measure later this week.
Added on to the bill was a two-month extension
of the anti-democratic Patriot Act, which also has bipartisan
support. Other amendments to the bill temporarily extended jobless
pay and health care assistance for the unemployed. These measures
will be reexamined in February.
The House did not include a measure that
would extend the estate tax, which applies only to the wealthiest
layers of the population. The tax is due to expire next year as
part of Bush's tax cuts.
The House leadership also decided to exclude
from the military appropriations bill a separate "jobs"
measure. This $174 billion bill-including a six-month extension
of unemployment coverage, limited aid to states to cover Medicaid
costs, and $27.5 billion in highway construction and repair projects-passed
by a vote of 217-212. By segregating the two bills, the Democratic
House leadership allowed the Senate to pass the military appropriations
while delaying consideration of the meager economic relief package.
After authorizing the military spending
by a wide margin, both the Democrats and Republicans made clear
that they are planning for a year of fiscal austerity, in which
non-military spending programs will be targeted. Obama is set
to launch his campaign for cost-cutting in his State of the Union
speech in January.
Separately, by a vote of 218-214, the
House passed a short-term $290 billion increase in the federal
debt ceiling, raising it from $12.1 trillion to about $12.4 trillion.
The Obama administration has warned that it might run up against
the current limit by the end of the year. Republicans and some
Democrats resisted a proposal to lift the debt ceiling by $2 trillion.
"Representative John S. Tanner, Democrat
of Tennessee and a leader of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog
Coalition, said the short-term increase in the debt limit amounted
to Congress's 'hitting the pause button' while allowing lawmakers
time to work out a way to tackle the deficit," the New York
One measure being considered to force
through cost cuts is the establishment of an independent commission,
which, according to the Times, would have "the power to recommend
spending cuts and tax increases for congressional approval."
Meanwhile, states, cities and school districts
throughout the country are imposing cuts to balance budget deficits
that add up to a small fraction of the military spending bill.
School districts, in particular, are planning
crippling cuts in preparation for the second half of the school
year, beginning in January. Below are some examples of measures
recently pushed through or planned:
o $550 million in K-12 education cuts
in Michigan, leading school districts to lay off staff, close
schools and eliminate programs.
o $300 million in cuts to K-12 education
in Indiana. This amounts to an across-the-board 3-percent cut
in the state's education budget.
o $101.5 million less for public schools
in South Carolina, adding to cuts of $85 million in September,
along with $38.3 million in Medicaid cuts.
o $110 million in cuts to the 127,000-student
Prince George County School District in Maryland, including 490
layoffs, an increase in class sizes, and teacher furloughs.
o $750 million withheld from local governments
by New York Governor David Paterson, including funding cuts of
between 10 percent and 30 percent for school districts.
o Plans for up to $470 million in cuts
to public education in Los Angeles, California, including up to
The combined budget deficits for all 50
states this year was about $180 billion, less than one third of
the military appropriation passed by the House.
Military-Industrial Complex page