The GOP Wants to Cut Social Programs in Favor of Military Spending. Biden Is Enabling Them.

The House GOP’s new budget would — surprise, surprise — further balloon militarized spending and take the axe to social programs. And Joe Biden’s love for military spending isn’t helping things.

US army soldiers stand near an armored military vehicle in Syria on March 27, 2023. (Delil Souleiman / AFP via Getty Images)

Last week, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy unveiled the Limit, Save, Grow Act, the House GOP’s budget plan. The bill would cap fiscal year 2024 federal spending at FY2022 levels, or about $260 billion less than the $1.73 trillion budget Joe Biden proposed last month. Here’s how the FY2022 budget divvied up that $1.47 trillion:

The FY2024 budget won’t end up looking like FY2022’s, however. Even though McCarthy’s bill doesn’t specify which parts of the federal budget would be slashed, social programs are clearly the GOP’s primary target.

Oklahoma representative Tom Cole — vice chair of the Appropriations Committee and chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development — said that of the twelve spending measures that make up the annual federal budget, only Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (Milcon-VA) appropriations will be spared from cuts. The chairpersons of those subcommittees, Cole said, will be “popping champagne corks,” while “the rest of us will be crying into our beer.” (Cole also sits on the Congressional Bourbon Caucus.)

The prized three — Pentagon, DHS, Milicon-VA — consumed most of the discretionary budget in FY2022, but even the amount Biden is proposing for the Pentagon and Milcon-VA in FY2024 is way higher than in 2022 (DHS is “only” a few billion dollars higher). As a result, the other nine appropriation categories would have about $140 billion less to work with next year than they did last year.

The projected GOP budget below reflects that. I estimated the funding for the remaining nine appropriations bills based on their share of last year’s $1.47 trillion discretionary budget — minus FY2022-level Pentagon, DHS, and Milcon-VA funding — and applied that percentage to a prospective $1.47 trillion budget for FY2024, minus what Biden just proposed for the Pentagon, DHS, and Milcon-VA. This would leave at most 28% of the federal budget available for everything else.

What we see is Exhibit A in how the establishment uses bloated militarized spending to crowd out social spending. By setting a budget ceiling, Republicans force a choice between funding for social programs and the national security state — knowing full well which one the president will select. Biden refers to military spending as a “sacred obligation” and spent the last year dismantling the United States’ pandemic-era expansion of the welfare state. Biden is unlikely to insist on paring back DHS, either, especially after investing so heavily in border patrol agents, surveillance, and operations in his FY2023 budget.

The current budget battle is being framed as an inter-party struggle, but it’s much more a class conflict than a partisan one. Joe Biden knew this would be the Republican strategy, and he released the largest-ever (nominal) Pentagon budget anyways. And after McCarthy put out his bill, the White House effectively ruled out any conversion from military to nonmilitary spending. As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told David Sirota in a recent interview, Biden is lurching to the right.