National Priorities Project: Budget Matters blog

Feb 06 2023

nationalpriorities.org - Latest entries

  • Senators Failed to Add Anti-Immigrant Border Policy to Budget Deal
    23 December 2022 @ 4:20 pm

    A U.S. flag imprinted with images of faces of immigrants

    Photo courtesy of Gerson Galang via Flickr.

    Yesterday, two anti-immigrant amendments that would have extended the legacy of the draconian Trump-era immigration policy, Title 42, each took the Senate floor for a vote. Both failed. 

    Title 42 is a Trump-era immigration policy that mass expels migrants who come to the southern border and seek asylum. The Trump administration has used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to enact the punitive immigration policy, part of its broader assault on immigrants. The Biden administration has attempted to leave the policy behind, but has faced court challenges and opposition from conservatives in Congress.

    Senators raised two amendments to the near-final budget deal passed by Congress that would have enshrined the mass-expulsion policy as law. The first, sponsored by Senator Mike Lee, would have terminated the use of any funds to end Title 42 once and for all, and required a simple majority to pass. It was ultimately defeated by a vote of 47-50. The second, a bipartisan amendment from Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Senator Jon Tester, failed 10-87. 

    For now, we breathe a sigh of relief. 

    The failure of these two amendments in joining the omnibus bill means striking down significantly more funding (than what is already in the budget deal, which is huge to begin with) to expand border control and immigration enforcement. 

    The propositions in the bipartisan Sinema-Tester amendment sought to nearly double the use of the private detention system by more than $1 billion, prosecute migrants for entry and reentry by hundreds of millions of dollars, and create new processing centers by hundreds of millions of dollars. This amendment would have perpetuated a violent feedback loop that keeps millions of lives harshly refused at the border or harmfully contained in the carceral system.

    Title 42 is still in place and is waiting for a decision from the Supreme Court amidst ongoing litigation for violation of U.S. refugee law. It’s time to stop this cruel policy. 

    When we label and enmesh migrants as threats in the public health crisis and the climate crisis, we’re entertaining an unjust and racist narrative and instead turning our backs on tens of thousands of children and families facing repeated brutalities, yet, at a minimum, are arriving at the border for their rights of security and refuge.

    We can live in a world where we mitigate pandemics through robust healthcare and public health infrastructure that supports its workers, and we can live in a world where we offer migrants necessary resources and protections when leaving the impacts of global warming and war. Our leaders should put our money here and end Title 42 once and for all.

  • Pentagon Fails Audit, Asks for More Money (Again)
    2 December 2022 @ 4:46 pm

    Two hands hold out $100 bills that have been lit on fire

    Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    Can you imagine the audacity to fail a multi-trillion dollar audit of public funds, and then ask for even more of those taxpayer dollars? 

    Pentagon leaders just did exactly that. 

    This month news broke that the agency once again failed to pass a basic audit showing that it knows where its money goes. And instead of holding out for any kind of accountability, Congress stands ready to give a big raise to an agency that failed to account for more than 60 percent of its assets. 

    This is a sign of an agency that is too big, plain and simple. Other major government agencies have long since passed audits. But the Pentagon, with its global sprawl of more than 750 military installations, and a budget increase that alone could more than double the diplomacy budget at the State Department, is so big and disjointed that no one knows where its money goes. 

    Here’s one solution: the Pentagon needs to be a lot smaller. After twenty years of war, and in a time when government spending is desperately needed elsewhere, the Pentagon’s fifth failed audit in as many years (and having never, ever passed) should be the last straw.

    Instead, recent reports suggest that Congress is moving toward a $847 billion budget for the Pentagon and nuclear weapons - and that figure may grow even more.

    This isn’t using our taxpayer dollars wisely. It’s robbing programs that we need, like the discontinued child tax credit that cut child poverty by half. And it’s continuing the Pentagon’s legacy of war, all for the benefit of the contractors who commandeer roughly half of the Pentagon’s budget in any given year.

    It looks like the people in this country are starting to catch on, though: a new poll shows that just 48 percent of Americans trust the military, down from a high of 70 percent in 2018. With the tide of public opinion turning, the Pentagon should be careful what it asks for.

  • Defueling Red Hill Is Not Enough: It’s Time to Demilitarize the Asia-Pacific
    15 November 2022 @ 11:37 am

    Protesters hold signs saying "water is life" and "poisoned by the U.S. military"

    Photo by Jason Lees/ for Ka Wai Ola

    This fall, organizers with the O’ahu water protectors in Hawai’i made the long trek to the White House to demand an immediate shut down of the Red Hill bulk fuel storage facility amidst growing frustrations with the Department of Defense’s current plans to completely defuel the facility by July 2024. 

    In November of 2021, thousands of gallons of jet fuel stored at the facility began to leak into Oahu’s largest water supply, contaminating the drinking water of nearly 100,000 residents. A survey of residents whose water had been contaminated conducted by the CDC found that 87% of respondents reported worsening health symptoms following the contamination, and that over one-third of said respondents needed medical treatment. 

    Despite Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s commitment to being a good ‘steward of the land’ moving forward, many Hawaiians continue to view the U.S. military with extreme distrust—and with good reason. Organizers and community members in Hawai’i have been raising safety concerns regarding Red Hill for years; however, these concerns were routinely ignored until it was too late. An investigation conducted by Rear Adm. Christopher Cavanaugh notes a damning series of failures contributing to the disaster including reduced oversight of the facility, discrepancies in reporting, and a “lack of critical thinking, intellectual rigor, and self-assessment by key leaders at decisive moments.”

    The Red Hill disaster is only one of a multitude of instances of the U.S. military causing extreme harm to both the environment and people of Hawai’i and throughout the rest of the Asia-Pacific. This Summer’s RIMPAC games, the largest maritime ware exercises in the world, is a prime example of this. Although RIMPAC’s  spokesperson assured native Hawaiians that the military would be “good stewards of this environment” and that active efforts were being made to protect training grounds, this would all prove to be lip-service in the end, as the use of live gunfire, missiles, and sonar continue to have adverse effects on marine wildlife.

    Even more alarming are the increased instances of sexual violence that accompany such military presence. The Hawai’i State Commission on the Status of Women has found that “Major events such as RIMPAC create a significant risk of commercial sexual exploitation to women and girls in Hawai’i” with “Native Hawaiian, immigrant, and LGBTQ persons” being particulrly vulnerable to prostitution and sex trafficking.” 

    While this trend is disturbing, it is not at all unique. The Okinawa-based organization, Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence, have arrived at similar conclusions regarding the U.S. military’s role in sexual exploitation, recording over 350 sex crimes in their report on U.S. Military Crimes in Japan post-World War II.

    Roughly 4,000 miles off the coast of Hawai’i in another U.S. occupied territory, Guam, we can find similar trends of environmental degradation and disregard for the livelihood of natives on the part of the U.S. military. Despite persistent efforts from indigenous activists on the island to demilitarize and to pursue alternative political statuses (full independence being among them), the Department of Defense has made it clear that it will continue to use Guam for its own political agenda regardless of the negative impacts. The 2023 NDAA has earmarked roughly $1 billion for the integration of an air and missile defense infrastructure on the island. Additionally, construction began last month for live-fire training ranges and support facilities very close to the Northern Guam Lens Aquifer, the primary source of drinking water on the island – a harrowing sign of what damage may come in light of what happened at Red Hill. 

    The Guam construction project, which will uproot roughly 200 acres of forest housing numerous endangered species, is, ironically, part of an agreement between the U.S. and Japanese Governments to relocate 5,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam in response to anti-militarist protests in Okinawa. While this is a win for residents and organizers in Okinawa, the fight is definitely not over, as the U.S. military has made it clear that they will prioritize their own interests over the health and wellbeing of local populations wherever they go. Major General Dennis Larsen is even on record saying that Guam is “not Okinawa” and that “we can do what we want here, and make huge investments without fear of being thrown out…” The United Nations has critiqued the U.S.’ treatment of the Chamorro people in Guam, citing lack of “free, prior and informed consent” regarding military expansion efforts.

    The U.S. military has ignored the voices of impacted people and the international community for long enough. It’s time for progressives to add our voices and demand demilitarization so that people in Hawai’i, Guam, Okinawa and elsewhere can live free from the environmental and human degradations imposed by the U.S. military.

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