Defund the Pentagon? Views From Left and Right

Defund the Pentagon? Views From Left and Right

DoD photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia Commons

Politico published dueling op-eds this week on the topic of reducing funding for the Pentagon. Andrew Lautz of the National Taxpayers Union and Jonathan Bydlak of the R Street Institute provide a conservative view on the issue, arguing that the recent unprecedented increase in federal outlays in response to coronavirus crisis should inspire a total review of other spending in the federal budget – beginning with “the single largest part of the federal discretionary budget, an entire category of spending that has long been off the table: the Pentagon.”

Lautz and Bydlak say that while many conservatives give the Defense Department a free pass when it comes to bloated budgets and unrestrained spending, at “a time of enormous deficits and record debt, this can no longer be acceptable.” They join with libertarians on both the left and the right in calling for reduced defense spending and more comprehensive audits of allocated funds. Although short on details, they say they stand by the idea that “in a post-coronavirus world, all expenditures can and must be on the table.”

From the left, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) says the coronavirus crisis makes it clear that “now is the time to fundamentally change our national priorities,” starting with the $740 billion defense bill Congress is expected to approve in the coming weeks. “After adjusting for inflation,” Sanders writes, “this bill would spend more money on the Pentagon than we did during the height of the Vietnam War even as up to 22 million Americans are in danger of being evicted from their homes and health workers are still forced to reuse masks, gloves and gowns.”

In an effort to rebalance priorities, Sanders has introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would cut overall defense spending by 10% – $74 billion – while redirecting the funds “to invest in communities that have been ravaged by extreme poverty, mass incarceration, decades of neglect and the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Quoting Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sanders makes the case that concerns about excessive defense spending have long been bipartisan. As the former Supreme Commander of the Allied  Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War II said in 1953: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”