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Social Programs

The Pentagon Just Can’t Pass An Audit

The Pentagon just failed its audit — again. For the sixth time in a row, the agency that accounts for half the money Congress approves each year can’t figure out what it did with all that money. For a brief recap, the Pentagon has never passed an audit. Until 2018, it had never even completed one. Since then, the Pentagon has done an audit every year and given itself a participation prize each time. Yet despite this year’s triumphant press release — titled “DOD Makes Incremental Progress Towards Clean Audit” — it has failed every time. In its most recent audit, the Pentagon was able to account for just half of its $3.8 trillion in assets (including equipment, facilities, etc).

US Sanctions Hit Nicaragua’s Social Investment Programs

Which country spends nearly two-thirds of its budget on tackling poverty? When I met Nicaragua’s finance minister, Ivan Acosta, he had just presented his 2024 budget to its National Assembly, and he made clear that a large part of it is aimed at doing just that. In cash terms, Nicaragua’s government will spend about 24% more in 2024 than in the current year, which includes a huge increase (43%) in public sector investment. Acosta explained how the country would continue its recent advances in health, education, transport, energy, water supply, housing and local government services. Less than 3% of spending is for defense, and in any case Nicaragua’s army has mainly civil duties such as dealing with frequent natural disasters and preventing deforestation.

Biden-McCarthy Deal: Neoliberal Fiscal Policy Continues

Over the weekend, US House of Representatives speaker McCarthy and president Biden announced a tentative agreement on raising the debt ceiling. The deal—almost certain to pass Congress later this week—represents a typical Neoliberal fiscal policy deal. Ever since neoliberal capitalism policies were introduced under president Carter in the late 1970s, and subsequently expanded dramatically under Reagan, Neoliberal fiscal policy has been characterized by accelerating Pentagon and war spending; simultaneous cutting of business-investor taxes; acceptance of consequent escalating budget deficits—and in turn US national debt levels; and the use deficit/debt to cap and reduce social program spending.

New Report: $1.1 Trillion Was Spent On Militarism And War Last Year

Washington, D.C. –  On May 24, the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies released a critical new analysis of the militarized budget in the United States, “The Warfare State: How Funding for Militarism Compromises our Welfare.” The new report found that this past year, out of a $1.8 trillion federal discretionary budget, the U.S. spent a staggering $1.1 trillion – or 62% – of that budget on militarism and war. Threats to cut spending for vital domestic programs have featured prominently in the debt ceiling debate in recent weeks, but spending on militarism has been almost entirely exempt from the discussion.

States With Temporary Budget Surpluses Should Invest In People

Policymakers in at least 14 states are using temporary budget surpluses to call for costly and permanent tax cuts targeted more to wealthy people and profitable corporations than to those who need help. That’s a bad choice. States should be careful to protect their long-term ability to provide funding for high-quality schools, access to affordable health care, and other public services, which these tax cuts would badly erode. Instead of permanent tax cuts, states should use the surpluses for needed one-time supports for people and businesses or to seed longer-term investments, especially those targeted to the communities most harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The surpluses largely reflect substantial — but temporary — federal funding provided in relief bills enacted in 2020 and 2021; those relief bills also boosted state economies and thus state revenues as well, further improving state fiscal conditions.
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