Holding the left accountable: Cori Bush's insane lie about military spending


Photo Credit: MBK (Mrjie), Flickr. License.

Cori Bush doesn't know what she's talking about when it comes to the military and the federal budget.

Bush, a Bernie Sanders-branded full on Socialist, is a rising star on what I like to call the horseshoe left - that is, they are so far left that on the horseshoe-shaped scale of politics, they end up pretty close to the radical right. A lot of that closeness comes from a shared belief among the fringe left and the ridiculous right that "the system is rigged" against whomever they imagine the protagonist of their respective fantasies is. A great deal of the commonality also comes from beliefs in fairy tales and a shared commitment to never letting facts get in the way of your argument.

After defeating Congressman William Lacy Clay in a Congressional primary held in August separately from the state's presidential primary in March, Bush has often made anti-capitalist statements, which has endeared her to the socialist left. She has advocated for reducing the defense budget and spending more on health care and education, which can be fairly mainstream in broad terms, reserving the devil that may be lurking in details.

But candidates who win their party primaries in a district heavily gerrymandered in favor of that party often stop trying to actually study the issues, because once they win their primaries, their election to Congress is a foregone conclusion. This is one of the many reasons America desperately needs redistricting reform, but I digress.

Cori Bush has now started to act more like George W. Bush when it comes to playing fast and loose with facts, and just flat out making up lies that fit her frame of thinking.

On Tuesday, she mused about how awesome it would be when the Pentagon is "defunded". Socialists, who pretend to champion the working class, have no problem putting out of a job a million people whose work is directly or indirectly tied to the Pentagon. The 'health care please' socialists appear to have no problem eliminating $45 billion spent annually by the Pentagon on providing health care to members of the military and their families and on medical research.

Her statement was slammed by Republicans and Democrats alike, and we reminded her that Democrats value a strong national defense.

The blowback bothered her, so much so that she rushed to put out a string of tweets attempting to demonstrate the evils of military spending, but apparently it didn't bother her enough to look up publicly available federal spending data. Rather she actually only demonstrated her absurd lack of knowledge or care about something that she will have the responsibility to work on as a member of Congress: the federal budget. 64% of the entire federal budget was spent on the military, she claimed, while only 5% is spent on Medicare and other health care expenses.

Her claim is, as mentioned, patently absurd.

Yes, we spend much too much on defense. But federal spending data is public information, and Bush might be shocked to learn that of the entire federal budget, which is comprised of automatic (mandatory) and appropriated (discretionary spending), the defense budget of about $700 billion spending amounts to about 15%, and health care spending - the total of Medicare and Medicaid, stands at about 24% of the total budget, or slightly above $1 trillion. Another $1 trillion of the budget goes to Social Security, which means that together, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid spending account for almost half the federal budget, compared to 15% for Defense, a more than 3:1 ratio.

This doesn't even include health care spending on the Affordable Care Act subsidies for individuals to purchase health insurance, which account for another $800 billion, still dwarfing Pentagon spending by itself.

It's one thing to talk about reducing Pentagon spending and the need to invest in social programs like health care, retirement security, and education. It is quite another to flat out lie - or be severely uninformed when the information is readily available - and manufacture numbers to fit one's dogma. Cori Bush is doing the latter.

She is wrong. This kind of misinformation is dangerous, and coming from a member of Congress-in-waiting, this is deeply disturbing.

We must build a governing coalition of reasonable people across ideological spectrum who care about facts and making progress, not peddle self-serving fiction.