12 min read

Budgets and Tears: The Salty State of Our Union

The outrage from "radical lefties" should not be a shock. The U.S. treasury funds mass atrocities and fuels mass inequality.The suffering and struggles of millions as a result is equally undeniable.
Image by Getty Signature from Canva pro of blue piggy bank in dark water with bubbles

Saturday night, as I was going about my weekend, the NYT alert popped up on my phone. Then more headlines touted the "good news." "The budget was passed! Yay! We avoided shutting down the place that employs us!"

I perused mainstream media for details of the bill that finally passed. Sucked into a deep doom scroll, I read reactions to this "progress" from Congress. I hoped to high heaven this was not the budget that funded genocide. But, of course, it was.

The TikTok takedowns I saw were on point, but on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn I saw mostly heartbreak. (Admittedly, my LinkedIn feed is a progressive bubble.)

As the Feds, the Washington Post, and other moderates attempted to gaslight us, my people noted the hypocrisy left and right. They posted about the b.s. rhetoric from the left and the right, too.

From the validity of new evidence of gender based violence in Palestine to how big of a loser the Speaker of the House is for keeping the government running, it was clear everything is up for debate, including whose lives matter. No wonder we can't agree on what matters and fund it accordingly!!

After 5 months of global protests, digital action, and calling our reps for a ceasefire, after AIPACs deep influence was exposed, people were understandably disgusted. This bill screwed Palestine, cut International Aid, and funded more weapons.

The outrage from "radical lefties" should not be a shock given the department's prioritized in the latest budget (Military, Interior, Homeland Security etc).

We the People continue to be ignored; the bill says everything about our "democracy."

Our politicians "struggle" to A. Function, B. Do the right thing, while C. Fund the War Machine and Wall Street.

There blatant disregard for the will of the voters was a kick in the teeth–a giant fuck you to Americans already struggling spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially.

Simultaneously, due to the aforementioned, Americans with limited resources face impossible choices. Rent or groceries. Doctors or gas money. Palestinians are left with zero choices; they're struggle: survive the night.

It is irrefutable that the U.S. treasury funds mass atrocities, growing mass inequities. The struggle and suffering of millions as a result is equally undeniable.

Protester in a surgical mask outside surrounded by people, holding a sign "Clapping won't pay my bills."
Image from Unsplash by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona

Democrats are cranky that progressives are angry...so it's a day that ends in y.

By the end of my doom scroll, I was near tears. The information that finally got me was that the office of DEI was so quickly allowed to die. was Capitulating to GOP, I imagine the "diverse staff" hired to fix inequity at the federal level are now unemployed thanks to the Dems' concessions.

It gave me flashbacks to ex-President Orange Toilet's first days in office in 2017. #45 removed the Office of Civil Rights from Whitehouse.gov day 1. He erased decades of social progress and eliminated the pandemic prevention office; we saw the fruits (fallout) of that "labor" in 2020.

For 3+ years, Biden and the democrats put our government back together and stood on a soapbox that his was the most diverse administration in history. They've taken some big policy steps forward, and seem to support unions, gender equality, and shoring up healthcare.

But equity is math, and dollars don't lie. Budgets are a moral document, and where you put your money and clearly we democrats moral center is where their politics is: centrist. Democrats version of "together" is never going to be as progressive as We the People want or need it to be.

Moderates claim "wins" while the devastation in Gaza (and Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Yemen) fill our feeds. The "radical left" (progressive, young, educated) constituents were ignored, again, and we're understandably enraged.

As Robert Reich noted, if not for Democrat's support, the bill would have failed again.

“[March 23rd]...President Biden signed a $1.2 trillion spending bill into law — narrowly averting a government shutdown and keeping federal agencies going until October. To pass the bill, Republican House speaker Michael Johnson had to rely mainly on Democrats (185 of whom joined 101 Republicans in favor).”

This should be a clue that our two party system (seemingly at war with each other) are just variations on a theme. Americans demanding social justice, equality, and anyone calling for an end to religious extremism and money in politics–we are their true adversaries.

Reich went on to note, “the new funding law contains almost exactly the same spending levels that Biden and former speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed to last May — before McCarthy reversed himself because of a revolt on his right and was still ousted.”

Why would we applaud Congress for avoiding a shutdown of their own making? An additional 9 months of our tax dollars wasted to approve a federal budget they proposed last Spring?! And what do we, the American people have to show for this extension, purportedly to find the most effective way to spend our money?

In the budget signed into law March 23rd, The Powers That Be added unethical, egregious clauses to the bill making humanitarian aid conditional.

Palestinians can't speak up against their own oppression, if they dare talk to the IJC, or seek statehood, the little aid they have will be cut. If they stand up and say stop killing us, they don't eat. Congress brazenly legislated their complicity to genocide: they put it in fucking writing.

Right before the vote, AOC finally spoke up on the House floor and called it a "genocide." Schumer finally called Netanyahu a failure on the floor of the Senate. Speeches aside, they both voted YES on this bill. (It should be noted, the rest of the squad broke with the Dems to vote Nay, including Corey Bush, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. Ayanna Pressley didn't vote. In the Senate, Bernie voted Nay as well.)

Our "representatives" failed to listen; they utterly failed to lead with purpose or democratic values. Legislating unethical policies while telling us "It's complicated" is spectacularly ordinary.

We the People are, understandably, enraged.

Put the money where our morality is.

Bernie Sanders Meme by me...I am once again asking what's the budge?

Where should the money go? Americans are clear AF about this. Most of us want healthcare, not warfare. Well-funded, right-wing think tanks, continue to ensure our politicians invest our money in death, not diplomacy.

Senators and Wall Street make more money from sick people, wars, and poverty than they do healthy, peaceful and independent people. So it's no surprise, they prioritized bullets and bombs over books or boomer's retirement. Funding medicaid, social security, or fixing the deficit they created; that will just have to wait.

Digging deeper into how the funding panned out, it's easy to see why people talk about bureaucratic waste. Our government pours more money like water onto fires they started, using our money as kindling.

The mainstream media publishes these numbers "objectively"– reporting these cuts with barely a raised brow. Billions to fund a fascist war after 5 months of protests, listed with no more emotional charge than reporting the weather.

I, however, am ALL SORTS OF EMOTIONALLY CHARGED. So, let me break some of the budget down for you, and review what our representatives deemed a priority.

As Kai Ryssdal says on NPR's Marketplace, "And now, let's do the numbers."

Immigrant support was not a priority. NGO/Nonprofits who serve immigrants saw funding cut by 20%.

Equality was not a priority. Effective immediately, the Office of DEI was eliminated. They also changed a law to prohibit non-official U.S. flags from flying atop American embassies (which the GOP plan to use to enforce a ban on pride flags).

Education was not a priority. They approved $79 billion for the Department of Education, $500 million less than 2023. (Less than Biden asked for, but $22 billion more than House Republicans wanted.)

Because, the War Machine is the most important part of our economy, Social Security, Medicare, or financing the federal deficit were such low priorities, they saved them for a different bill.

Priority Number One: Fund The War Machine and Policing.

(multiple sources including the WAPO, NPR, and Reuters, and my brain.)

I must reiterate they funded police, incarceration, and the military BEFORE medicaid, because bipartisanship support over killing people is easier to come by than agreeing we all deserve medical care.

  • $3.9 billion to Israel for weapons and military aid.
U.S. gave occupied Palestine $150 million in humanitarian aid the past few years. Israel got $3.5 billion in military support every year, and used it to inflict mass atrocities, resulting in billions of dollars in damage in Gaza.

Throwing money on a money fire.

As if the influence lobbyists have on our budget process wasn't clear enough, the following tweet from AIPAC should leave zero room for doubt. How many other lobbyists tweeted "Thanks for the drones!" with faces of our congress people the day after that budget passed?

  • 5.2% increase in compensation for U.S. service members.
  • $1 billion increase for Head Start programs and new child care centers for military families.
Did you know the U.S. military spent over 40 times more on soda and milk than they did on water in 2020?
$10 million USD soft drinks, $35 million USD on milk, and $1.5 million USD on bottled water. (Don’t tell me they drank 40x more tap water? Also that is probably 15 million PLASTIC bottles, assuming they got it CHEAP/at cost for $.10 a bottle.)

Why does this matter? Well the military recruits the poor, through incentives like decent pay. They fund soda more than water. Per the CDC, “4 in 10 Americans have 2 or more chronic health problems.” Also adults don't need to drink milk and the cows producing it causes methane gas (the next looming climate catastrophe).

The CDC claims their job is prevention, but “6 in 10 Americans live with at least 1 chronic disease, like heart disease and stroke, cancer, or diabetes. These and other chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in America, and they are also a leading driver of healthcare costs.”

Conveniently, these sick Americans need medicine, so good thing that beverage program is well funded.
  • 22,000 Border Patrol agents and added 8,000 beds for immigrant detention centers.
  • Almost $800 million to short up the U.S. Capitol Police recruiting and retention efforts. (I wonder why they think D.C. needs an additional $57 million this year? Huh.)

Priority Number Two: Making sure Big Pharma is well funded.

(sources: Biden signs a $1.2 trillion funding package, averting a partial government shutdown, NPR March, 2023, and my brain.)

  • $4.6 billion substance use prevention and treatment including $1.5 billion for state opioid response grants
  • $145 million for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program
  • $5 million for the NIH to put towards Opioid research.
$5,000,000 may sound significant but it's equal to 0.33% of the state opioid response grants, and probably covers only a fund a handful of studies.
McKinsey had to pay nearly $600,000,000,000 (divided by 50 states) for their role for fueling the opioid epidemic. They paid $48 billion to Massachusetts alone.

Oh, but don't worry. McKinsey made that money back fairly quickly. The governor of Massachusetts hired them the same month the settlement was finalized to write a Future of Work report. 6 weeks. $2,000,000 ($2 million USD) for economic and cultural conjecture. The MA Attorney General rightly pointed out this was total bull shit.

I will add, what is even worse...McKinsey has continued to get contracts with the feds, including over $100,000,000 ($100 million USD) to advise the government on their pandemic response, and multi-billion dollar contracts to advise the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security. I feel safer already!

Priority Number Three: Supporting Americans with performative "investments" to go green or start businesses.

  • $4 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program: Includes a $25 million increase, aimed at helping low-income households heat and cool their homes.
$25,000,000 USD ($25 million) sounds big right? Well consider that in 2023, Chevron made $77,533,000,000 USD ($77.53 billion in Gross Profit, down from $96.8 billion in 2022.)

But, sure we can celebrate low income households getting help with their heating/AC, getting the equivalent of 0.03% of the earnings ONE big oil and gas company made in a year. (Exxon and Shell made even more.)

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention, the people suffering the most from climate change, spurred by fossil fuels are poor communities. And they can run up to 20º hotter due to lack of trees and more asphalt.
  • "$1.18 billion for the Small Business Administration (SBA), including $316.8 million for entrepreneurial development grants."
First, "Entrepreneurial development grants" doesn't necessarily mean the grants are going to entrepreneurs to develop anything. It could mean the SBA is "developing" a new program, some free advice or toolkit, or opening more SCORE centers for entrepreneurs to go to and ask for Federal loans.

Second, even if it was unrestricted grant money (spent how the grantee sees fit) entrepreneurs will spend hours applying and fighting for $316,800,800 USD in grants. Americans are starting an average of 500,000 businesses a month. 1 in 5 adults started a business in the past 3 1/2 years.

It's the amount equals 8% of the money the feds gave to Israel for weapons this year to carpet bomb Palestinians.

The SBA in the U.S. defines small businesses as under 400 employees, and depending on the required metric, up to $20 million in annual revenue. Yet, 82% of small businesses employ only the founder, and rarely qualify for any grants or support.

In 2019, over 1,860 women starter a business every day. 65% of those were started by women of color. We know their businesses get less than .03% of VC funding. In 2020, Black entrepreneurs had less than a 5% chance to get a PPP loan, and that chance proved accurate, causing 40% of Black-owned small businesses to shutter.

So yeah, miss me with this "big" win for main street.

Priority number five: Ensure that The Empire uses its power to show the world who America really is.

This priority is less about what we give, and more about what we take.

  • 6% cuts to all International Aid
The U.S. spends a measly $48 Billion to begin with–less than 1% of the annual federal budget.

With inflation the highest it's been in my lifetime, wages stagnant since the 1970s, and costs from climate catastrophes growing, the "help" the U.S. gives to the most vulnerable is decreasing.
  • Cut funding to UNRWA for the next 12 months
  • Made another $336 million in humanitarian aid contingent on the silence of dissent.
Relying on benevolent benefactors is a recipe for disaster, worse so for a people behind a siege and blockade. This defunding should be a violation of international law, but American exceptionalism means that global laws apply to everyone except us (and Israel evidently).

The U.S. defunding of the UNRWA is not something new.

ICYMI, the last President cut aid from $360M, to $60M and then in 2019 canceled all funding. Biden as recently as 2021 had proudly restored funding to UNRWA and increased the total aid to Gaza to a whopping $235M.

UNRWA was created for the sole purpose of helping Palestinian refugees. Besides aid, they employee 33,000 Palestinians who already experience an unemployment rate of 80% thanks to a blockade and apartheid.
Biden administration to restore $235m in US aid to Palestinians
Two-thirds will go to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, which Donald Trump stopped funding.

THIS WAS BACK IN APRIL 2021 - Read what Blinken said only 3 years ago.

But, the Economy is Doing Well.

The Powers That Be want us to cheer on economic policies that hurt the 99%, somehow betraying our eyes, and our lived experiences.

Gaslighting with a side of entitlement is their modus operandi, especially around economics. Paul Kruger (NYT Economics Op-Ed writer and capitalist tool) says Americans are bummed out on the economy for no good reason. Schumer and Biden want us to stop our whining.

Here is where I say, fuck this, fuck them, and fuck that! (Remember, I started this blog to say all the F bombs with wild abandon, and to share political hot takes without shadowbans).

I am not celebrating U.S. investments in mass murder, policing, censorship, surveillance and squashing protesters, even if they call it "safety." The claim it's to protect our freedom is the same as Israel's faux-freedoms.

Both countries and cultures are plagued by the same fear mongering, xenophobia, racist ideology, and religious extremism that isolates us from the rest of the world.

And, our economies both depend on the military industrial complex and both exploit melanated people for cheap labor.

The IRS collects $2.2 trillion USD annually, from individual tax returns. Our money is held hostage by selfish, capitalist interests, homicidal foreign leaders, and amoral lobbyists.

Some things never change; this budget is deja vu. Whether they take funding away to "save" us or give it back to "save" themselves is irrelevant. The goal is to remind us who's in charge. Whatever our government does, wherever they put our money, or our resources, we're expected to be grateful, and keep our objections to ourselves.

This budget, like the ones before it, is not a win, and they know it. This is what it looks like when Democrats refuse to listen to us, and to take a stand for the planet, freedom, and human rights. This is what Imperialism looks like on the books.