“They got money for wars but can’t feed the poor.”
These powerful words, spoken by Tupac Shakur in his song Keep Ya Head Up all the way back in 1993, still resonate heavily today. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has treated its citizens with far less consideration than other western countries. The poverty level in this country has risen exponentially, with 7.8 million Americans in a state of poverty as of November 2020. European countries did not see this kind of poverty rise, and this is presumably due to their differing programs that offer more comprehensive stimulus funds to their citizens. According to TIME, certain European countries had ‘safety nets’ for their citizens that were put into place even before the pandemic that helped to keep the mass majority out of destitution. Policymaking can be a difficult task, especially in America, but European citizens have fared better financially during this crisis.
So, why can Europe keep their citizens afloat, but America can’t? American priorities seem to be a bit skewed. Over 500,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, the country is in a deep economic crisis, the unemployment rate is high, and millions of Americans are struggling. As opposed to signing an Executive Order while Congress deliberates, Biden let the American Rescue Plan meander through Congress, only to get bounced around between the House and the Senate. Of course, this bill excluded the $15 minimum wage – at least during pandemic times – that Biden harped on during his campaign to captivate the vote of the progressives. To the average American, it is difficult to understand why checks are only coming for the third time, and the answer to that would be: oh, it has to go through Congress first! This is valid – the Executive Branch does not have the power to spend and pass laws like this. But, in regards to keeping the American people afloat, even his predecessor did some in people’s aid during the in-between times that Congress was deliberating. Former president Donald Trump enacted the eviction moratorium, and Biden extended it. As Biden preached progressiveness in his campaign, he did not make any changes to this order, which excludes many people from protection. Biden could have reworked this, but did not. On the other side, Joe Biden did not go through Congress to send an expensive air strike to Iraq this February. A non-emergent military air strike passed Joe Biden’s desk without going through Congress without question. For this, he received bipartisan disdain from members of Congress. As for the American people, it seems backwards that Joe Biden quickly put an order to send airstrikes to Syria, but reworking the aid packages while Congress deliberates is too much work?
Sure, the American Rescue Act and the military budget come from different places. However, mentioned earlier, the European countries that have better supported their citizens through this pandemic had ‘safety nets’ in place before the pandemic. Perhaps, if the United States chipped just a couple billion dollars off of the exorbitant 732 billion dollars the taxpayers and federal government spent on the military, and redistributed it to safety nets, the citizens of this country would not be needing this third measly stimulus check ever so badly. The military is essential, in the eyes of some, sure. However, the United States spends the most money of every country in the world — and not by a couple billion. China is the next highest military spender, at 261 billion dollars. This is not a small difference, and the United States should redistribute even 10 small billion dollars to programs to better help citizens in times of crises, and even outside of them.
Tupac Shakur was wiser in 1993 than the United States government is now. The priorities of this government are not to help its citizens for the common good, which is where they should be. Cutting a few billion out of the military budget to redistribute to programs to help citizens could be a beautiful thing. This country could feed its poor citizens and find ways to make healthcare more accessible during the global pandemic that has killed over 2 million people worldwide.