Bernie Sanders, an independent, represents Vermont in the Senate and is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president.
I find it ironic that when I and other progressive members of Congress propose legislation to address the many unmet needs of workers, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor, we are invariably asked, “How will we pay for it?” Yet we rarely hear that question with regard to huge increases in military spending, tax breaks for billionaires or massive subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.
Despite the fact that 87 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured, the establishment tells us every day that we cannot join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all as a human right through a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.
Even though roughly half of older Americans have no retirement savings and 20 percent of senior citizens struggle to survive on an income of less than $13,500 a year, we have been told by the corporate elite that we must cut Social Security.
While hundreds of thousands of bright young Americans are unable to go to college because of the outrageous cost and millions of Americans are drowning in student debt, we are told that we cannot afford to make public colleges and universities tuition free or cancel student debt.
At a time when 18 million families are paying more than half of their limited incomes on housing, we are told that it’s too expensive to guarantee everyone in the United States a decent place to live, affordable child care and a job that pays a living wage with decent benefits.
But when it comes to giving the Pentagon $738 billion — even more money than it requested — there is a deafening silence within Congress and the ruling elites about what our nation can and cannot afford. Congress will just authorize and appropriate all of this money without one penny in offsets, no questions asked.
I find it curious that few of the "deficit hawks” are asking if it is fiscally prudent to be spending more on defense than the next 10 countries combined — more than half of our nation’s discretionary budget.
And there is little discussion taking place as to why the Pentagon — riddled with fraud, cost overruns and corporate price fixing — is the only major agency of government that has not successfully undergone an independent audit.
When I talk about changing national priorities, I’m talking about the fact that the $120 billion increase in Pentagon spending — compared with the final year of the Obama administration — could have made every public college, university, trade school and apprenticeship program in the United States tuition free, eliminated homelessness and provided universal school meals to every kid in our nation’s public schools.
The time is long overdue for us to take a hard look at military spending, including the “war on terror,” and whether it makes sense to spend trillions more on endless wars, wars that often cause more problems than they solve.
Call me a radical, but maybe before funding a new space force, we should make sure no American goes bankrupt because of a medical bill or dies because they can’t afford to go to a doctor on time.
The massive unpaid-for defense bill is just one obvious example of the hypocrisy of the deficit hawks in Congress and their corporate enablers.
Where were these politicians, many of whom want to cut food stamps and affordable housing, when Congress passed a tax bill that provided more than $1 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthiest people and most profitable U.S. corporations?
As a result of the Trump tax giveaway to the rich, billionaires now pay a lower tax rate than the bottom 90 percent of Americans, and companies such as Amazon, General Motors, FedEx, Eli Lilly and IBM pay nothing in federal income taxes after making billions in profits. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Post.)
I am running for president because it’s time for a new vision for America and a new set of priorities. Instead of massive spending on a bloated military budget, tax breaks for billionaires and huge subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, we need to invest in the working families of this country and protect the most vulnerable. We need a government that represents all of us, not just the corporate elite.