The U.S. military budget is a threat to democracy / by th CPUSA Peace & Solidarity Commission

CPUSA, May 25, 2023

Congress and U.S. presidents routinely ask how the government will pay for education and healthcare, for cleaning the environment, for ensuring labor justice — all the human needs. But rarely, if ever, do they ask where the vast fortune they are flooding into the Pentagon budget will come from.

After the end of World War II, the U.S. government justified its massive military budget by claiming the Soviet Union was a threat to our country. Other small and weak socialist countries like the DPRK (North Korea), Vietnam and Cuba were deemed threats to the mighty United States, which attempted to put them down. Numerous other, short-lived, progressive governments in small countries were named threats and overthrown.

Once the Soviet Union had fallen in the early 1990s, the peace dividend was ephemeral. The U.S. claimed Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was a threat, then Serbia’s Slobodan Milosovic. Then the 9/11 terrorists were the threat. Then it was Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Syria’s Bashir al-Assad and Iran’s Ayatollahs.

But the existence of terrorists, or alternatively, the national leaders of various small countries, could not indefinitely justify constantly increasing funds for nuclear missile fleets, bombers, Navy vessels, foreign military bases, and a large standing army. It could not indefinitely justify a military budget greater than those of the next 9 countries combined, most of which are U.S. allies. A bigger threat had to be conceived to meet that demand.

As Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III revealed in the latest war budget this past March, the 2022 National Defense Strategy outlines the following “security priorities” for the U.S. Department of Defense:

  • “Defending the homeland, paced to the growing multi-domain threat posed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC)”
  • “Deterring strategic attacks against the United States” and its “allies” and “partners”
  • “Deterring aggression, while being prepared to prevail in conflict when necessary — prioritizing the PRC challenge in the Indo-Pacific region, then the Russia challenge in Europe.”
  • “Building a resilient joint force and defense ecosystem.”

Realistically, the United States warring class must establish threats as a precondition to its “full spectrum dominance,” a term coined by the major warmongers of the late 1990s and quickly implemented by President George W. Bush. It means simply that the U.S. will prevent any other country or group of countries from challenging its total global economic, political, financial, technological, or military hegemony. By any means necessary.

Thus, the Pentagon’s latest threats engineered specifically to justify filling its coffers and maintaining full spectrum dominance are China and Russia.

The U.S. financial-military-industrial complex is swallowing the national economy, and throwing humanity under the bus. It is depleting the capital infrastructure built over the country’s lifetime, despoiling the global landscape and, if not reined in, will incinerate all of civilization and most life on this planet.

Furthermore, as our society becomes increasingly militarized, we witness the blowback of the incessant violence of foreign wars in the mass shootings that take place everyday in our schools, malls, houses of worship, and private homes. We witness the construction of “Cop City” in Atlanta, aimed at accelerating the transformation of our domestic police into an occupying army, as the Pentagon transfers billions of dollars of outdated, surplus military equipment to local law enforcement. This strengthening of the weapons industry certainly strengthens the most fascistic forces in the United States.

While the five biggest armaments companies in the U.S. and top political donors within the defense industry contributed almost $285 million to both Democrats and Republicans from 1990–2022, the majority of that money (57%) went to the GOP, amounting to a nearly 33% donor boost overall for Republicans. Except during Clinton and Obama’s first terms, when the big armaments contributed more to the Democratic Party, weapons manufacturers have contributed anywhere from 12%–105% more to the GOP.

Nonetheless, in March, President Joe Biden requested $842 billion for the Pentagon for FY (Fiscal Year) 2024. This is an increase of $69 billion over the $773 billion requested for 2023 by the department of war (it’s a misnomer to call it defense). By including the annual amounts proposed for developing and building a new nuclear weapons arsenal — scheduled to eventually total $2 trillion, war spending is already acknowledged to reach $886 billion.

Yet there’s more. The tens of billions Congress keeps appropriating to keep the war in Ukraine going, at least $112 billion so far, is off the Pentagon’s books.

In addition, each year, Congress shamelessly pours additional tens of billions of dollars over and above the President’s request to subsidize imperialism’s war machine. Last year, pork-barrel lawmakers added $25 billion to the president’s proposal. In the next months, we can expect them to continue that shameless tradition.

According to defense analyst William Hartung, “Congressional add-ons could push total spending for national defense to as much as $950 billion or more for FY 2024. The result could be the highest military budget since World War II, far higher than at the peaks of the Korean or Vietnam Wars or the height of the Cold War.”

But that’s still not the end of it.

Tens of billions of our taxes are aimed at the activities of Homeland Security, which was created claiming to provide defense of the United States, as distinguished from the Pentagon’s more distant invasive operations — including more than 800 foreign military bases and numerous Naval fleets traversing the planet’s oceans.

The CIA and 16 or more other agencies tasked with spying on everybody (friend and foe) and sabotaging targeted governments take in untold truckloads of tax dollars.

The State Department receives tens of billions for financing foreign militaries, such as the Israeli and Egyptian militaries. The State Department’s budget funds the U.S. Agency for International Development, National Endowment for Democracy and other operations responsible for corrupting, sabotaging and subverting the societies of various countries, including Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Nicaragua, Syria, Ukraine, and many others. Those that have defied demands to adopt policies friendly to U.S. corporations are especially targeted with these interventions.

There is also over $300 billion our country is obligated to spend to care for veterans of the numerous wars the U.S. has initiated.

Yet there’s more.

Since World War II, the United States government has chosen to borrow money from the rich, instead of taxing them, to pay for its numerous, expensive wars and for the huge, proliferating war machine, all of which mainly benefits the rich. These loans are to be repaid with interest. The financial burden is thus kicked down the road, attempting to avoid antagonizing the working class and any concurrent resistance. Not specifically raising war taxes, however, does not avoid the exquisite suffering of military families, our communities, and the hundreds of millions living and dying in the invaded nations.

The Pentagon calculated the direct cost of the wars on Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria between 2001 and 2021 to be $1.6 trillion. That’s $8,300 from each of us taxpayers. Not one of the countries the U.S. invaded during that time frame had threatened the security of the 335 million residents of the United States. Surely we could have put those dollars to good use.

Importantly, the Cost of War Project at Brown University included indirect costs. Their figure for the Bush–Obama–Trump–Biden “war-related spending” from 2001 “through FY 2022 with estimated obligations to veterans’ care through 2050” totals at least a staggering $8 trillion. Other estimates raise that to an even more astounding $21 trillion. Even this outrageously high number does not take into account the cost — which the U.S. government now owes — of repairing the destroyed infrastructure and other horrendous damages suffered by the people of those countries attacked by the U.S.

By including national war-debt payments and all the other war spending outlined above, William Hartung and Mandy Smithberger calculated the total military budget for FY 2020 as north of $1.25 trillion. Back then the Pentagon “base” budget was $544.5 billion. The FY 2024’s base budget is at least $300 billion greater. So it now easily surpasses that monstrous amount and likely greater than $1.5 trillion.

Is that the final amount the United States is throwing to manifest war?


In reality, the military budgets of the U.S.’s NATO allies should be included in what the U.S. spends on weapons and war. Even though the U.S.’s NATO partners are sovereign countries, their militaries are largely an extension of the Pentagon and usually march in lockstep with U.S. foreign policy. NATO — read “the extended arms of the U.S. Pentagon” — requires member forces to purchase quantities of U.S.-made weaponry for “interoperability.” So we could add up to $300 billion to the budgets that feed the war machine.

In addition to NATO members we should include South Korea’s military budget because in time of war the U.S. commands the South Korean military. But why not include all U.S. military allies whose biggest spenders are Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea and Australia? Doing so would raise the Pentagon’s budget by $550 billion.

Now we’re approaching $2 trillion per year that the Pentagon can leverage.

But let’s consider just the amount taken from U.S. taxpayers by the financial-military-industrial complex, as we should leave veterans’ benefits intact.

What else could $1.2 trillion buy?

The National Priorities Project (NPP) has done the basic arithmetic. The numbers below are based on NPP’s alternative ways to spend that enormous sum.

Those tax dollars could be used to pay for all the following each year:

  • 5 million university scholarships
  • 2 million elementary school teachers
  • Head start slots for all of the 3.8 million three-year-olds in the U.S.
  • 5 million public housing units
  • 2 million clean energy jobs
  • Providing 10 million households with wind and solar power
  • Healthcare for all of the 38 million low-income adults in the U.S.
  • Healthcare for all of the 4.2 million children in the U.S. currently without it
  • 2 million registered nurses
  • 2.5 million $15/hr jobs with benefits (there are 1.2 million unemployed 16–24 year olds in the U.S., and real unemployment is at least double the official rate)

How realistic is it to stop squandering the treasure, natural resources and technical skills of our working class and redirect Pentagon spending to benefit the true needs of this country?

In 2020, Congressional House members Barbara Lee of California and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have cut Pentagon spending for FY 2021 by just 10%. It gained the votes of 93 members of the House and 23 members of the Senate, almost all Democrats. The amendment lost.

In 2020, House member Barbara Lee of California introduced a resolution to cut military spending by $350 billion. A little over one month later, she and Mark Pocan created a Defense Spending Reduction Caucus.

In 2019, the Poor People’s Campaign published a “moral budget” that also called for cutting the military budget by $350 billion.

Before the demise of the Eurasian socialist bloc in the early 1990s, there was a growing effort led by international president of the International Association of Machinists William Winpisinger to move funding away from war to fund civil society. Today, there is again a germ of a new such effort at conversion from a militarized to a civilized economy. More accurately, it is a “just transition” that guarantees equivalent jobs or wages to the workers moving out of the war economy industries and into peace economy jobs.

The “Move the Money for Human Needs Campaign” organizes at the level of city governments to coalesce unions and social-needs organizations to draft, lobby for, and pass resolutions in city councils demanding drastic reductions in military spending and using the billions of dollars saved to address the human needs of our people. One important example is taking place now in the biggest city in the country, New York City, where a broad coalition of trade unions, community, faith and peace organizations has introduced such a resolution.

All of these initiatives are worth building upon. We must create local coalitions to join the Move the Money campaign, participate with the Poor People’s Campaign and press members of Congress to join the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus. And we should be electing leaders who will follow the people in building a new economy that is just, green, and peaceful.

Images: Tax the rich, house the poor, money for jobs, not the war by People’s World (CC BY-NC 2.0); high school students participate with a Military Families Speak Out action by Military Families Speak Out (Facebook); #HandsOffCuba by People’s World (CC BY-NC 2.0); End endless wars by Peace Action New York State (Facebook)

Communist Party USA

Carrying coffins honoring the dead, Poor People’s Campaign marches in Tennessee / by Mark Gruenberg

Rev. William Barber speaks on gun control laws in Nashville. | video screenshot/Poor People’s Campaign, via Twitter

Originally published in the People’s World on April 18, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Carrying empty coffins honoring three adults and three nine-year-olds shot dead at a Christian school around two weeks ago, hundreds of Tennessee Poor People’s Campaigners marched on the state capitol building in Nashville on April 17, demanding the Volunteer State’s Republican legislative supermajority pass tough gun control laws.

But their demand, like the initial protest of 7,000 students and adults, which jammed the Capitol and which was led by two first-term Black Democratic state representatives, was met with silence or scorn.

And that in turn led campaign co-chair the Rev. William Barber II to declare that refusal to enact gun control laws is part of wider “death by public policy” the rich and right-wingers have constructed for decades, not just in Tennessee but nationwide. He called it “moral and political murder.”

Moral murder policies include a linkage between racism, gun violence, denial of voting rights, and repression of workers, among others, he said. “The current voter suppression laws affect 60 million people, not just Black people, but Americans,” Barber explained.

“But here’s what you know:

“The same people that suppress the vote block the gun bans. The same people that block gun bans block health care. The same people that block health care block (raising) the minimum wage. And the same people that block the minimum wage block environmental justice.”

Speaking to the crowd inside a jammed Nashville church beforehand, Barber fully expected the marchers, with 27 pallbearers for the coffins, to be denied entrance. They were. They weren’t fazed.

“We’re not gonna stop and we’re not gonna roll over,” he declared. He later told the marchers “You don’t have to beg…you voted” in 2020 and more must vote in 2024, especially in southern states such as Tennessee.

An increase of 20% in turnout by low-income and low-wealth voters would evict repressive state lawmakers, Barber declared. Youthful speakers at the end vowed to register, vote, and vote the Tennessean right-wingers out—a task made difficult by Tennessee’s Republican-rigged extreme gerrymandering.

The Tennessee lawmakers’ response so far on gun control has been two-fold: No gun control laws and to evict the advocates, Reps. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, and Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, from the legislature by party-line Republican supermajority votes. All but one member of the supermajority is white. The exception is a native of India.

The supermajority claimed Jones and Pearson “violated decorum” by leading pro-gun control chants by the packed House gallery. After lawmakers evicted the two, the Nashville-Davidson and Memphis-Shelby city-county boards voted them right back into their seats, temporarily and pending special elections, to be scheduled under state law. But state reps ignored demands by Jones, Pearson, their 140,000 constituents, and other Tennesseans for gun control measures in the Volunteer State.

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People’s World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).

Five million poor, low income voters could make the difference Tuesday / by Mark Gruenberg

Rev. Barber, co-chair of the national Poor People’s Campaign | Jose Luis Magana/AP

In a massive pre-election push the Poor People’s campaign has contacted 5.5 million low-wealth and poor registered voters who could deliver the GOP a massive defeat on Election Day. The organization headed into the final weekend before Election Day intent on ensuring they get to the polls and that their votes are counted, too, despite voter repression in various states.

The theme of this last drive: “If you ever needed to vote for democracy, the time to vote is right now.”

The campaign set a goal of five million voter contacts in states with chapters, but particularly in 15 targeted states, including North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Arizona, Kentucky, Kansas, Nevada, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Overall, it’s operating in 30 states and more than 140 cities, Barber said.

It raced past that mark four days before the rally, hitting 5,504,713 contacts by the time the event began. Contacts included 700,000 Floridians, 209,440 in Arizona and 731,785 in Georgia, a key purple “swing” state.  In 2020, the campaign contacted 2.1 million people total.

“Vote for democracy, vote for health care, vote for freedom. It’s all in the balloting,” urged Malik Gray of Tallahassee, Fla., one of dozens of PPC volunteers who spoke on the organization’s nationwide zoom mobilization call/rally on the evening of Nov. 2.

But the point is to get people the volunteer PPC canvassers contact to vote. Many are registered but not voted in years, if ever, “because no one contacted them” or listened to their concerns, said campaign co-chairs the Revs. William Barber and Liz Theoharis.

“The power to transform the entire political landscape is in the hands and in the votes of poor and low-income people,” Theoharis explained. “All over the country, people are hurting.”

Can make the difference

So turning them out on Nov. 8 can make a difference in the close races in target states, Barber and the others said. He used his home state, North Carolina, as an example.

“There were 1 million poor and low-wealth people there who didn’t vote” in 2020 even though they were registered, he explained. “If we had had 20% of them, the outcome would have been quite different” from Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s narrow loss to Republican Donald Trump in the Tar Heel State.

That’s what happened in Pennsylvania in 2020, Barber added. The campaign contacted tens of thousands of people there, helping Biden win by 110,000 votes.

This time, it’s contacted 614,991 voters, urging those who support its agenda of diverting federal funds from the military to domestic programs, raising the minimum wage, enacting strong worker rights, improving housing and public schools and providing health care for all. Two of the volunteers speaking via zoom specifically endorsed government-run single-payer health care, too.

Pennsylvania is particularly important because it has an open Republican-held U.S. Senate seat and open Democratic-held governorship. The Senate race between pro-worker Democratic Lieut. Gov. John Fetterman and Trumpite Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz could break that chamber’s 50-50 tie.

And Pennsylvania’s governor controls the election machinery in the Keystone State.  Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) faces a Trumpite Republican state senator who has led the former Oval Office occupant’s campaign to erase not just Biden’s margin, but the votes of poor and low-wealth people in Philadelphia.

Other volunteers highlighted other problems poor and low-wealth people face—problems they’re using on the campaign trail to attract people to vote on Nov. 8.

“There are millions of paid caregivers who are earning less than $15 an hour,” the minimum wage floor the campaign is lobbying for, said caregiver Teresa Muldrow of Philadelphia. “And there are millions more who are unpaid.” They’re family members.

“The expanded child care tax credit lifted 30 million people out of poverty in 2021” when lawmakers used it to aid poor- and low-wealth people left with little or no income due to the coronavirus pandemic. “But Congress refused to extend it” though the modern-day plague still afflicts the U.S. Restoring the tax credit and making it permanent is is a Poor People’s Campaign goal.

“Our public schools aren’t funded enough,” said Anam El-Jabali, a Palestinian refugee and mother of five from Chicago’s southwest suburbs. “This is why we demand quality, equitable and diverse schooling.”

“I want folks to understand this is serious,” Barber said. “We march, we organize, we vote. But the one thing we don’t do is quit,” signaling the campaign will continue after Election Day, to hold politicians’ feet to the fire.

“Voting is the guaranteed way to shift public policy—if the masses get together” to elect officeholders who will work to end the plight of the nation’s 140 million-plus poor and low-wealth people, Barber added.

“If the extremists” who oppress the poor “didn’t know this, they wouldn’t be fighting us so hard. They want the lobbyists and the greedy to use the vote,” but not the rest of us.

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People’s World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).

People’s World, November 4, 2022,

Poor People’s Campaign exceeds 5 million voter goal, won’t stop / by Mark Gruenberg

JACKSON, Miss.—The Poor People’s Campaign has exceeded its national goal of reaching five million low-income and low-propensity voters, co-chairs the Revs. William Barber II and Liz Theoharis announced on Oct. 30. And it isn’t going to stop there.

Instead, the drive scheduled a big boost with a National Virtual Get Out the Vote rally, scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern Time on Nov. 3. Participants can access it here.

“We won’t stop until we see a society that lifts from the bottom,” their tweet declared. The theme of the rally, it added, is: “If we ever needed to vote for democracy and justice, we need to vote now.”

While that theme refers to preserving democracy as well as expanding it, Barber, in an Oct. 30 sermon just before a rally the next day in Jackson, Miss., made it clear that the campaign’s wide-ranging agenda still is a top priority—and that it can be achieved if hordes of poor and low-wealth people head to the polls on Nov. 8.

“It may not be the whole pool” of voters, Barber said then. “But it can change the pool.”

“If you want to be whole, act as though you don’t have to accept this level of misery, you don’t have to accept this level of pain, you don’t have to accept this level of oppression, you don’t have to accept this level of abandonment, you don’t have to accept this level of hopelessness,” the veteran pastor preached, quoting Jesus Christ.

“Instead, stay focused on transformational change. You can be made whole” by voting to change away from politicians who follow the rich and oppress others.

Barber, whose movement now has chapters in at least 45 states, re-emphasized that poor and low-wealth people—who numbered 140 million even before the coronavirus pandemic hit 2-1/2 years ago—can change the political calculus only if they vote as a mass and do it together.

“The truth of the matter is that what if, in spite of all the misery and all the pain because of all the bad policies of Caesar”—Christ’s oppressor, but also a stand-in for today’s oppressive politicians—“and because of all the hatefulness,” people “decided to turn their misery into a movement?”

Then, he said, “you can change attitudes right now. You can decide this election. This America doesn’t have to be like this.

“You can decide we go in another direction,” he urged. “[We have] the power to organize this misery into a powerful group that refuses to accept things the way they are.” Voters “are not just to be acted upon,” he reminded listeners.

The Poor People’s Campaign has a track record to build on for achieving those electoral goals. It turned out enough poor and low-wealth voters in 2020 to help swing key states away from candidates full of hate for poor and low-wealth people and towards their foes. For Barber personally, the haters included Republican Oval Office occupant Donald Trump, as he told his daughter one evening.

Besides joining the massive GOTV national rally, supporters can also go to this link to join the campaign’s text banking, or call up the hashtag #OurVotesAreDemands.

National Virtual Get Out the Vote rally – Nov. 3rd at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. Sign up now.

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

People’s World, November 3, 2022,