President Joe Biden signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Monday, allocating $768 billion to the Department of Defense for the 2022 fiscal year. The legislation sailed through both houses of Congress as a number of deficit hawk legislators dropped any pretense about spending concerns and voted for the bill.
That includes Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who of all the Democratic senators has made the biggest stink about the price tag for the president’s Build Back Better agenda. Manchin helped whittle down the initial sticker price of $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion to be spent over 10 years. Over a decade, the cost of the bill on average per year would have been nearly four and a half times less than the Pentagon’s budget for 2022.
And since DoD’s budget has trended upward, there’s an extremely good chance that over the next 10 years Congress will appropriate more than four, five, six times the amount (or more) it would have spent by passing the $1.75 trillion version of BBB. Even a $3.5 trillion would likely amount to less than half of defense spending in the next 10 years.
BBB would have expanded the child tax credit, instituted universal pre-kindergarten, expanded Medicare coverage to include treatment for hearing-related issues, and invested in mitigating the effects of climate changes, among other major provisions. But the bill has been shelved after Manchin said he won’t vote for it – at least, not in its current form.
“I’ve tried everything possible,” he told Fox News last week. “I can’t get there.”
Back in 2011, I was having a meeting on Armed Services. And at that time, Adm. Mike Mullen was head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I’ll never forget, in this hearing, he was asked the question, “What’s the greatest threat the United States of America faces?” And I think I’m going to hear something, basically, military threats we might have around the world. Without blinking an eye he said, “The debt of our nation is the greatest threat.” The debt was 14 trillion then, Bret. It’s 29 trillion now. Inflation is real. It’s not going away anytime soon. We don’t know when the end will come.
Clearly, the admonitions from the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the national debt are tattooed on Manchin’s brain considering he’s bringing it up 10 years later. Surely, then, Manchin would oppose the annual defense budget, which is in large part just Keynesianism for defense contractors and congressional districts that host those contractors, as well as military bases.
But a funny thing happened on the way to worrying about spending: Manchin “forgot” to show concern about its effect on the deficit and the national debt. Not only that, he voted for it and hailed its passage.
“The FY22 NDAA is critical to combatting enemies seen and unseen, and includes funding to support our brave servicemembers and other priorities for West Virginia,” Manchin said in a statement four days before he said he won’t vote for BBB because of his concerns about the national debt. “I am proud the Senate passed this vital legislation in a strong bipartisan vote of 89-10.”
But I was told, “The debt of our nation is the greatest threat.”
As Ryan Cooper of The Week pointed out in the fall, Manchin has voted for every NDAA put in front of him since he arrived in the Senate more than a decade ago.
“If we take the figures for each year from 2011 to 2020, adjust them for inflation, and add them all together, we get a total of $7.6 trillion in 2012 dollars,” wrote Cooper. “Then if we adjust again to get 2021 dollars, we get a total of $9.1 trillion over a decade. Again, these are rough figures, but they are certainly in the right ballpark.”
The kicker in all of this is that the NDAA gives DoD $24 billion more than it requested. While other departments have to fight for every nickel they ask for and often don’t get it, Congress routinely gives the Pentagon more than it wants. Many of the lawmakers voicing concern about how expanding Medicare would increase the debt have no compunction about signing off on certain weapons programs, the utility of which are dubious at best.
Sometimes DoD even tells Congress it doesn’t want to re-up certain programs, only to see members of Congress try to force them into a spending bill anyway because the useless goodies are made in their states and districts.
None of this is to say that everything in the defense budget is worthless, but with the U.S. spending more on its military than the next nine countries combined, it’s more than fair to ask how many of these programs and bases are actually necessary.
Moreover, the U.S. just ended a 20-year war in Afghanistan, which for all that defense spending, couldn’t bring a ragtag, but nonetheless highly motivated insurgency to heel. One would think now would be a good time to allocate less money to the DoD, not more.
The post Joe Manchin Drops All ‘Concerns’ About Deficits and Debt as Biden Signs $768 Billion Defense Spending Bill first appeared on Mediaite.