Military Spending and the Never Ending Trump Diversion

by Ajamu Baraka, Published on Black Agenda Report, 17 Apr 2019

No sector has benefited more from the Trump presidency than the military/industrial complex — with lots of help from the Democrats.

“Democrats and Republicans are both committed to the dictatorship of capitalist ruling class and global full spectrum dominance by the U.S.”

Despite the intra-class anxiety among the capitalist class in response to the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the office of the presidency, his administration has proven to be beneficial to most sectors of the capitalist class, even with the short-term pain experienced by some U.S. exporters to China as a result of his trade maneuvers.  The fear that Trump would dismantle the post-World War II economic order was unfounded as the basic structure and logic of global capitalist accumulation continued uninterrupted with U.S. finance and corporate capital doing quite nicely even with loss of the Transnational Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trump’s renegotiation of NAFTA.  But no sector has benefited more from the Trump presidency more than the military/industrial complex.

The 750 billion dollar request by the Trump administration for the pentagon budget for 2020 is the third budget submitted to Congress with a request for military spending that in a moment of candor by Trump was characterized as “crazy.” Yet, as crazy as those numbers might have been both parties fell in line with the requests and even went beyond them.  Last year Trump requested an increase of $54 billion. He got the $54 billion with almost $30 billion more from Congress, with the support of most democrats, while the public had its gaze on the Russians!

But how does this happen with no opposition? 

The public is fed the line by Democrats that they are the party of the people.  The party that is concerned about the working class, social justice, human rights etc. But what is absolutely clear, or should be clear, is that when it comes to issues of war, militarism, subversion of states in global South, there is no difference between the agenda of the Democrats and Republicans, both are committed to the dictatorship of capitalist ruling class and global full spectrum dominance by the U.S.  The systematic crimes against humanity that are being carried out by the U.S. against Venezuela with bipartisan support is just the latest example of that class unity in the service of white imperialist power.

So, why is it so difficult for that class agenda to be perceived by the public and especially those sectors that vote Democrat? I will give you two words: Obama and Trump!

The presidency of Barack Obama has been up to now the most effective deployment of white imperialist power since the Second World War. Obama accomplished something that no other administration has been able to do — ideologically it moved the entire population to the right by normalizing the rightist agenda of global capitalist neoliberalism and militarism.

Trump continues that trajectory but the class agenda that he championed was obscured by the diversionary politics of anti-Trumpism that focused on his personality, eccentricities and more obvious commitment to white supremacy.

The reactionary identity and pro-imperialist politics being played by Democrats and even most of the contenders for their parties’ nomination to run against Trump, has benefited from the easy diversion that Trump provides. The focus on what became Trumpism had the effect of masking the overall continuity of right-wing neoliberal policies that Wall-Street funded Democrats are supporting like the regressive tax system, commodification of public services and the pro-imperialist military agenda.

The Issues of War, Militarism and Domestic Repression Must be Priorities for 2020 Election

Dr. King said 52 years ago that

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

By that definition the U.S. and both parties have long been dead.

The Budget that Trump proposes will likely be passed with slight modifications. It requires dramatic cuts in non-defense spending in order to support $750 billion for the Pentagon.

What was the response from Democrats?  The Democrat-controlled House Budget Committee voted 19-17,  with the help of Barbara Lee, to move a bill out of committee that essentially gives Trump an increase to $733 billion.

The Democrats will tell us that they surrendered at the $733 billion level in order to save more severe slashes of non-defense spending in Trump’s budget and to bring parity between defense and non-defense spending.  But why not hold line on increase in military spending and even push for reduction?  Are they not in control of the House?

Their proposal only means that their opening negotiation concedes that there will be an increase in defense spending and some cuts in non-defense spending but not as drastic as Trump’s opening budget proposal. This conciliatory position is quite different than the adamant and aggressive stance they took on the issue of funding for the wall on the Southern border.

Why not hold line on increase in military spending and even push for reduction?”

The Trump budget calls for cuts in spending by the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency and even the State Department. Trump’s objective is to cut non-defense spending from last year’s figure of $597 billion to $543 billion this year. But his budget also calls for cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security over the next decade.  Cuts that he proposed to his supporters he would never make.

To be fair, three other Democrats on House Budget Committee, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and IIhan Omar voted against the budget bill. As Khanna pointed out

“We cannot be against endless wars and then fund those wars.”

But while Jayapal, Khanna and Omar voted correctly on this bill and long-time leader of the Congressional Black Caucus Barbara Lee did not, all of these “progressive” Democrats in their first few months in office voted to keep the U.S. in NATO, and have repeated the imperialist line on Venezuela that characterizes Maduro as a dictator and questions the legitimacy of his election while opposing direct U.S. military intervention.

And everyone in Congress continues to give a wink and a nod to increase military spending with the Overseas Contingency Operations or “OCO funding” that technically is not counted as defense spending but it is the fund being used to fund much of ongoing U.S. wars.

These capitulations to Republicans are always framed as bad negotiation strategies on part of Democrats or the Democrats never learning from past mistakes but it is clear that this is willful with the Democrat Party now being far more hawkish than the republicans.

It’s a ruling class game in which a Bush or now Trump provides a diversion for Democrat Party supporters while both parties go about the business of lining the pockets of their capitalist supporters and executing the bipartisan ruling class agenda of global full spectrum dominance.

For Citizens of Empire Rebuilding the Anti-War and Anti-Imperialist Movement is Political and Moral Imperative

After almost two decades of endless wars, it should be apparent that there is no connection between this criminal expropriation of public resources and military readiness or operational effectiveness. The obscene expansion of the military spending continues on the heels of two military defeats in Afghanistan and Iraq in which the military had everything it needed.  Instead, the requests and the acquiescence of Congress demonstrates once again the bipartisan agenda that is committed to the rapacious plunder of public resources in the service of private capital.

Developing and executing a peoples’ agenda that recognizes that the people’s interests are not the same as the interests of the rulers is absolutely necessary. It means making bold proposals to cut military spending by at least 50% as a start, closing the outposts of U.S. aggression and imperialism in the form of the over 800 U.S. bases world-wide, demanding that the repressive Department of Defense’s 1033 program responsible for transferring military grade equipment to police forces across the country is shut down, and calling for the U.S. to shut down its African Command (AFRICOM).

The specter of nuclear war with the abrogation of treaties like the Intermediate Nuclear Force treaty and the commitment of over a trillion dollars to upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal and the real possibility of catastrophic climate change also fed by out of control military pollution of the environment means that for collective humanity, militarism and the insane commitment to war must be opposed by all who believe in peace, social justice and people(s)-centered human rights.

Ajamu Baraka is the national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace and was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. He is an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and contributing columnist for Counterpunch. His latest publications include contributions to “Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi”. He can be reached at:

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