The law that created the deficit committee also created a zero-sum game: Any expensive program that escapes the budget knife does so at the expense of cuts to other programs. If the military contractors succeed in keeping the war budget intact, they’ll likely do so at the expense of Social Security and Medicare.
That means money that would go to your Social Security or Medicare benefits will instead go into the hands of people like Lockheed Martin CEO Robert J. Stephens, who last year made $21.9 million, almost totally from taxpayer-funded military contracts.
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These corporations have been and are devoting considerable resources into a coordinated effort to ensure they get as much of that money as possible. A new investigation by AlterNet’s Nick Turse (as part of a joint investigative project among AlterNet, Salon,and Brave New Foundation) uncovered that not only have tens of billions of dollars been sent to war contractors in deficit committee members’ districts in the last several years, but the millions of donations donated to the members’ campaign and PACs have heavily favored Democrats since 2007.
That means that the people we usually rely on to protect Social Security and Medicare may have been compromised by heavy war industry donations.
Democrat Jim Clyburn, for example, recently said, “…Defense may be something that most members on the Democrat side will not mind going after. But I do mind going after that. So I’m going to be very reticent.” Clyburn has taken several hundred thousand dollars in contractor donations since 2007, and he’s not alone. Deficit committee co-chair Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) literally campaigns on sending military contracts to Boeing, which has a heavy presence in Washington State. These members typically (and cynically) defend shoving money at corrupt contractors by saying they are “looking out for their district.”
As we show in our new War Costs video, if they continue this behavior from their perches on the deficit committee, they will most definitely NOT be looking out for their districts. Because the deficit committee is required by law to propose no less than$1.5 trillion in cuts to the federal budget to prevent automatic cuts across federal programs at the end of the year, all big-ticket federal programs are essentially competing against each other for funds. If the war budget wins, popular programs like Social Security and Medicare lose, and that means many, many more of the committee members constituents will be directly hurt by the cuts.
Below we list the number of people in each committee members’ district who rely on Social Security. We then compare the dollars received by Social Security beneficiaries in areas represented by the committee in 2010 with how much federal money was sent to military contractors in the same areas(drawn from Nick Turse’s research). Clearly, if the deficit committee slashes Social Security and Medicare to protect the military budget, many more of their constituents will lose, and their districts will take a much harder economic hit.
Number of Social Security Recipients in Areas Represented by Deficit Committee:
- Sen. Patty Murray (WA): 1,089,887
- U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (TX-05): 125,185
- Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ): 1,067,717
- Sen. Rob Portman (OH): 2,124,650
- Sen. Pat Toomey (PA): 2,557,714
- Sen. Max Baucus (MT): 192,701
- Sen. John Kerry (MA): 1,140,830
- Rep. Dave Camp (MI-04): 155,855
- Rep. Upton (MI-06): 135,716
- Rep. Becerra (CA-31): 51,189
- Rep. Clyburn (SC-06): 142,082
- Rep. Van Hollen (MD-08): 88,726
Military contractors are crying crocodile tears right now about the “fragility” of their industry, and they’re declaring that they’re really just concerned about the committee members’ constituents. But as we showed last week, this industry is flush with cash, and will do or say anything to protect the one thing they care about above all else: profit.
The deficit committee has to choose: will they stand with the 16 million people in their districts who rely on Social Security and Medicare, or will they send that money to Lockheed Martin’s CEO?
This should an easy choice: cut the war budget.