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U.S. budget priorities and healthcare

September 24, 2017

by Barry Hermanson

My column last month reported on the vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to support HR 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018. The vote was 344 Yes and 81 No. Seventy-nine percent of our elected representatives in the House voted for “nearly $30 billion more for core Pentagon operations than President Trump requested,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle, July 15, 2017.

Not to be outdone, on Sept. 18, 89 percent of the U.S. Senate approved HR 2810. The vote: 89 Yes and 8 No.

Following is a list of the eight senators who voted No: Corker, R-Tenn.; Lee, R-Utah; Paul, R-Ky.; Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Leahy, D-Vt.; Merkley, D-Ore.; Wyden, D-Ore.; and Sanders, I-Vt. If these are your senators, please call to thank them.

Three did not vote: Graham, R-S.C.; Rubio, R-Fla.; and Menendez, D-N.J. They should be called to ask why.

All other senators voted Yes and should be called to ask why they prioritize military spending over everything else.

Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, all considered to be possible Democratic Party candidates for president in 2020, voted Yes. “Representatives from Warren’s office say she ‘plans to advocate for defense cuts’ and an increase in non-defense spending when the time to appropriate funds comes later in the year,” reports MassLive Media.

Really? Why not advocate for defense cuts now? How can you come to us later in the year and ask us to fight deep cuts to environmental programs, education and healthcare, when you voted to increase funding for a bloated Pentagon budget? Your vote prioritizes military spending today.

Every year, Democrats and Republicans in Washington vote overwhelmingly to fund the military. Everything else results in endless debate, posturing and gridlock.

I would never vote to fund a bloated “defense” budget with more money than the Trump administration requested. Instead, I am an advocate for cutting U.S. military spending by 5 percent per year for 10 years – and beginning a national discussion about how much we really need to spend to defend ourselves.

Why not advocate for defense cuts now? How can you come to us later in the year and ask us to fight deep cuts to environmental programs, education and healthcare, when you voted to increase funding for a bloated Pentagon budget? Your vote prioritizes military spending today.

What does all of this have to do with healthcare?

On Sept. 13, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2017 with 16 co-sponsors (S. 1804). If you haven’t seen it, I recommend watching the video.

One of the first questions people ask about any universal healthcare bill is how are we going to pay for it. I rarely hear anyone ask how we are going to pay for our military budget.

S. 1804 will cost less than we are spending now. S. 1804 will provide better healthcare. Countries around the world prove this is possible, yet only 17 senators are in support. Eighty-nine support spending more on a bloated military budget.

I’ve always viewed the Republican Party as being a party of war. Throughout my life, I’ve learned the Democratic Party is as well. Military funding comes first. Human needs are an afterthought.

I left the Democratic Party when I was 50. In 2001, I registered with the Green Party. It is a political party that more closely reflects my values.

S. 1804 will cost less than we are spending now. S. 1804 will provide better healthcare. Countries around the world prove this is possible, yet only 17 senators are in support. Eighty-nine support spending more on a bloated military budget.

The Green Party card printed with this column provides more information about what Greens support. I hope you will join us. Your voice is needed to change U.S. budget priorities. Register and vote Green.

Barry Hermanson is the San Francisco-based Green Party candidate for U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached at barry@hermansons.com.

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