TOP
Biden Is Bankrolling Israel's War Amid Growing Financial Hardship at Home
Martha Rodriguez comforts her 14-month-old granddaughter on Oct. 20, 2023, at home in Phoenix. Rodriguez steps in after her early morning shift at an industrial laundry while her daughter works because child care has become too expensive. Photo by The Washington Post via Getty Images

Biden Is Bankrolling Israel’s War Amid Growing Financial Hardship at Home

In late October, President Joe Biden issued two supplemental funding requests. The first, primarily to support Israel’s war on Gaza and Ukraine’s war against Russia, became the $95 billion National Security Act, which the Senate passed in February. This week, Biden urged House leadership to pass the bill as soon as possible.

Never has the president appeared more committed to advancing one of his priorities. Biden delivered a rare Oval Office address specifically to market the plan — something he hasn’t done for any other proposal — and designated the funding as “emergency requirements.” In the weeks and months that followed, he ensured that it remained at the top of Congress’s agenda, even if that meant delays to other legislative business. His hard work paid off: The current bill gives Biden pretty much exactly what he asked for.

The second proposal is half the size of the first and funds domestic programs such as grants to child care providers and disaster relief. This request wasn’t designated as emergency spending.

While Biden personally and repeatedly urged Congress to approve his foreign policy plan, there is not a single instance of him even mentioning his domestic proposal in a statement since offering it on October 25. It hasn’t made an appearance on his personal or presidential X accounts either. Indeed, the way the proposal is written suggests that Biden never intended it to be taken seriously. The foreign policy request is a 69-page, fully drafted legislative proposal that’s formally addressed to the House speaker; the domestic request is a two-page summary table.

The disproportionate amount of political — and regular — capital Biden put into his military spending proposal compared to his domestic, anti-poverty measure characterizes the disconnect between Washington’s idea of “national security” and what security actually means to working-class people and families. If there were alignment, the domestic proposal would be a bill by now.

The National Security Act 2024 puts the U.S. on track to spend more on its military this year than it did annually on average during World War II. Seventy percent of the $95 billion bill is designated for the Pentagon, as is another $886 billion Congress authorized in December. Altogether, the pending fiscal year 2024 Pentagon budget stands at $953 billion.

But as Biden pushes for the largest military budget in the postwar era, 63 percent of U.S. adults say rising prices are a source of hardship; 41 percent report difficulty paying for basic needs like food, housing, child care, and utilities; and 23 percent said they were unable to pay an energy bill in full in the last year. These measures of financial distress are all higher than what they were on average in fiscal years 2021, 2022, or 2023. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the president’s focus is on weapons.

The largest provision in the domestic plan is a one-year, $16 billion extension to the American Rescue Plan’s Child Care Stabilization program, which saved the already-fragile child care sector from collapse during the pandemic by keeping workers employed and costs down for families. More than 220,000 child care programs received assistance, including the Sammy Center, a nonprofit preschool in Salt Lake City, Utah. “I am eternally grateful for the stabilization grants,” founder Maria Soter told me. “The funding was my lifeline.”

The expiration of stabilization grants on September 30 set in motion an unfolding disaster. To compensate for the funding shortfall, child care programs across the country are closingdownsizingcutting wages, or raising costs. In October, more than a third of providers who once received stabilization funding said they had already increased tuition. Knowing she would have to raise tuition at her preschool, Soter said that in the lead-up to the grants’ expiration, “there were nights I didn’t sleep.” Although most parents could afford the extra $300 per month to keep their child enrolled, she lost four students because of the increase.

Absent new stabilization funding, 3.2 million children could lose access to child care. Financial hardship will likely get worse too: Many working parents are now paying more for child care or working less to assume those duties themselves. Households are projected to lose nearly $9 billion in earnings annually from parents reducing their work hours or leaving their jobs entirely to cover the new gaps in child care coverage.

Spending $16 billion on child care would blunt rising financial hardship and promote children’s well-being. The National Security Act, meanwhile, spends $16.5 billion to sustain Israel’s war on Gaza, which has killed more than 12,500 Palestinian children.

This bill shouldn’t exist for another reason. Providing military aid to Ukraine wouldn’t require a supplemental bill had Biden not excluded funding for it from the $886 billion Pentagon budget hoping to avoid trade-offs.

To the delight of military contractors, his plan worked. All told, the U.S. arms industry should expect a windfall of about $64 billion from the National Security Act, or four times the money it would take to mitigate America’s child care crisis.

Biden Is Bankrolling Israel's War Amid Growing Financial Hardship at Home

 

Stephen Semler is co-founder of the Security Policy Reform Institute and author of the Speaking Security newsletter.

Co-published with The Intercept.

Save An Endangered Species: Journalists

Stephen Semler is co-founder of the Security Policy Reform Institute and author of the Speaking Security newsletter.

Skip to content