On December 15, the U.S. Senate passed a gargantuan, single-year, $768 billion defense bill on an 88 – 11 vote. The passage clears the way for President Biden’s signature, after the bill moved through the U.S. House with a landslide 363 – 70 vote earlier in the month. The agreement reaffirms that the only truly bipartisan issue in Washington is militarism.
The lopsided vote for the military budget, which includes even more funds for America’s nuclear arsenal, stands in stark contrast to President Biden’s Build Back Better bill, which includes some important people-centric programs, but is currently languishing in Congress, with news reports claiming the bill will be “shelved” for the foreseeable future.
Since 9/11, questioning any aspect of America’s military machine has become associated with paltry patriotism and lack of “support” for U.S. troops. Nevertheless, the tide is slowly turning, as even military members and veterans — including myself — begin to question the United States government’s wars and spending priorities.
As a former career soldier and retired two-war combat vet, I could personally benefit from the 2.7 percent pay raise for service-members that’s included in the latest defense bill. Still, soldiers are first and foremost citizens of this nation, as well as sons, daughters and spouses of families that increasingly struggle to make ends meet.
In other words, we are the folks who stand to gain from the social programs in Biden’s bill — including paid family leave—that Republicans and a number of “moderate” Democrats are now opposing. America is the only major wealthy country that provides zero weeks of paid benefits to new parents, leaving them at the mercy of state governments or often unsympathetic private employers. Working people, including soldiers and vets, deserve time off to be with their new families.
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