With the war in Gaza raging, Joe Biden is attempting to pitch new military spending as a boon for the economy. Could he get more cynical?

by Luke Savage, Jacobin

In an interview with 60 Minutes earlier this month, President Joe Biden boasted of the United States’ ability to fight multiple wars at the same time: “We’re the United States of America for God’s sake. The most powerful nation in the history of the world,” he assured his interviewer. “We can take care of both of these [wars in the Middle East and Ukraine] and still maintain our overall international defense. We have the capacity to do this and we have an obligation to — we are the ‘essential nation,’ to paraphrase the former secretary of state. And if we don’t, then who does?”

Biden’s string of American exceptionalist cliches has since been given a vintage election-year chaser: What if more wars represents an invaluable economic opportunity? In an Oval Office address earlier this week, the president said just as much — dressing up new military spending in the language of economic nationalism and even name-dropping particular swing states where his advisers cynically expect the message to resonate:

biden stands at a podium and talks

“Let me be clear about something. . . . We send Ukraine equipment sitting in our stockpiles. And when we use the money allocated by Congress, we use it to replenish our own stores, our own stockpiles with new equipment. . . . Equipment that defends America and is made in America. Patriot missiles for air defense batteries, made in Arizona. Artillery shells manufactured in twelve states across the country, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas. And so much more. . . . You know, just as in World War II, today patriotic American workers are building the arsenal of democracy and serving the cause of freedom.”

Last Friday, the White House sent a letter to Congress outlining what it called “critical national security funding needs” and tabling a proposal worth nearly $106 billion. According to an analysis by Stephen Semler, much of that money represents little more than stimulus to the US military itself: subsidies to weapons plants and shipyards, the stockpiling of weaponry, etc. There are $25 billion apportioned to Ukraine, $8.7 billion to Israel, and another $8.2 billion to border enforcement. As Semler notes, the request is among other things completely devoid of relief funds for existing childcare provider grants and nutrition program benefits that expired this month.

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