Biden over-delivered on military spending and under-delivered on social spending
Speaking Security Newsletter | Advisory Note for Organizers and Candidates, n°140 | 27 December 2021
Joe Biden just signed the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law. In nominal terms, it authorizes a level of military spending higher than at any point during the Trump administration. The budget is confirmation that Biden effectively doubled-down on the same, new Cold War framework implemented under the previous administration. In this way, it’s like Trump never left office.
Biden tried to build bipartisan support for his domestic agenda by amplifying China as a threat
It didn’t work. For the infrastructure bill, Biden invoked China more than he did climate change during the speech in which he introduced the bill. For the Build Back Better Act, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates described it mainly as an essential part of US-China competition, saying the bill will “make one of the best, most life-changing investments in American competitiveness imaginable” which is particularly important because “China is outpacing us.”
The infrastructure bill passed, but at less than a quarter of its original value. The Build Back Better Act was cut in half and then shelved after Biden failed to get any Republicans—as well as some members of his own party—on board.
Reviewed: Biden’s campaign pledges on military spending vs. spending on physical & human infrastructure
Biden campaigned on around $7 trillion over a decade ($700B annually) for climate, infrastructure, healthcare, and social programs—or ‘physical and human infrastructure’, for short. Adjusted over a ten-year span, the infrastructure bill delivers $55 billion of the $7 trillion promised for physical and human infrastructure.
Biden didn’t deliver a firm number on military spending on the campaign trail, but the strongest indication he gave was that he would keep spending flat. But Biden’s military budget request ended up being about $12 billion more than Trump’s last, bringing total ‘defense’ spending to $753 billion for FY2022. Congress proceeded to add about $25 billion on top of that.
So what we’re left with is almost $40 billion more than Biden campaigned on for military spending, and nearly $650 billion less than what he campaigned on for physical and human infrastructure. This probably explains a good bit of why Biden’s approval ratings are tanking.
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