11:29 GMT +315 December 2017
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    In this July 24, 2016 file photo, a US military personal stands guard during a graduation ceremony for Afghan troops, in Lashkargah, capital of southern Helmand province, Afghanistan.

    No Money for Education or Health, But US Defense Spending to Hit $700Bn Annually

    © AP Photo/ Abdul Khaliq
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    The US Senate has approved a US$80 billion increase to the country's defense budget, dragging funds to US$700 billion annually. The stratospheric rise comes despite public opposition, and political opposition to funding increases in other key areas.

    On September 19, the US Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of increasing the Pentagon's budget by US$80 billion to US$700 billion. The US military has long been the most expensive in the world, and has consistently risen even in times of peace, with no minor or major external threat with which to justify such rises.

    ​The new budget is even bigger than that originally proposed by President Donald Trump, and sees funding reserved for new missile defense systems, ships and aircraft.

    ​Already larger than the budgets of the world's next nine biggest defense spenders combined, the new budget will push that total to the next 10.

    ​In all, the US will be spending more than three times as much as China on its military, and 10 times as much as Russia, despite the current budget already accounting for over one third of all military spending.

    Blue and Red All Over

    A mere eight Senators (including Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul) voted against the boost, with 89 in favor — Democrats and Republicans supporting the same measures with quite such zeal was arguably an incongruous sight, given the US' highly polarized political climate.

    However, given the vast sums spent on lobbying efforts by the US defense industry, aimed at both parties, such harmony might not be so surprising — in 2016, defense firms donated an average of US$43,000 to each Republican member of Congress, US$32,000 to each Democrat, US$60,000 to each Republican Senator, and US$40,000 to each Democrat.

    While under 10 percent of Senators opposed the funding boost, many polls suggest a majority of US citizens strongly support significant cuts to the military purse. For instance, in 2016, citizens rights organization Voice Of the People asked over 7,000 voters around the country to craft their own defense budgets, and found over half favored reducing defense spending by at least US$12 billion, with most supporting a maximum budget size of around US$497 billion.

    Furthermore, in the survey, a majority of respondents repeatedly labeled the arguments against spending as more convincing than arguments in favor — and respondents overwhelmingly agreed with the notion Congress frequently OK'd  "unnecessary spending" and military branches did a poor job of "tracking where money goes."

    The survey also assessed how much most voters think the US government is spending on the military — when respondents looked at the defense budget as a proportion of the annual discretionary budget, a majority found defense spending to be far more than they expected.

    Similarly, when voters were presented the defense budget in comparison with potential enemies and allies' budgets, substantially more respondents found the budget to exceed what they expected.

    Critics may well argue the US' ever-escalating military budget is an example of how US political elites favor the interests and reflect the views of wealthy corporations rather than the public.

    Profit and Loss

    The push for greater defense spending comes as the Trump administration attempts to battle government expenditure in other areas, such as via the repeal (or truncation) of Obamacare, which will see at least 32 million US citizens lose their right to healthcare.

    ​The drive also coincides with intense debate about higher education in the US — and US$80 billion could be used to make all public colleges and universities in the US tuition-free (with money potentially left over). Moreover, the US$800 billion that will be spent on the military over the subsequent decade could wipe out all student debt existing as of September 2017.

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    Tags:
    US defense spending, lobbying, defense spending, defense budget, military, US Armed Forces, Republican Party, US military, Democrats, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, United States
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