The American People vs. The American Congress

On December 13th, Gallup listed, in order of Americans’ polled ratings of issues as being the nation’s “Most Important Problem”, all 14 issues that more than 2% of Americans thought to be that; and here they were, in order from the top-most to the bottom-most, of all issues that the thousands of Americans who were sampled volunteered to be that:

(1) Government, (2) Inflation, (3) The economy, (4) Immigration, (5) Unifying the country, (6) Covid-19, (7) Race relations, (8) Crime, (9) Gasoline prices, (10) The courts, (11) Poverty, (12) Abortion, (13) Morals), (14) Environment. (All other issues were below 3% — Gallup’s cut-off-point for inclusion on their published list.)

On November 9th, the Washington Post presented what the mid-term election exit polls found to be the most-frequently mentioned “most important issue in their vote”; and these were, in order: (1&2 tied) Abortion (for Democrats) and Inflation (for Republicans), (2&3 tied) Immigration (for Republicans) and Gun policy (for Democrats). The AP’s survey of voters was also shown in that article, and indicated that the “Most important issue facing the country” (a slightly different question from the regular exit polls’ “most important issue in your vote” question) was, in order: (1) the economy 47%, (2&3&4 tied) immigration and abortion and climate change all tied at 9% each, (5) crime 8%, (6) health care 7%, (7) gun policy 6%, (8&9 tied) foreign policy and covid-19 both tied at 2% each.

How well are the American public’s priorities matched by the budgetary decisions by the U.S. Congress? According to the scientific studies that have been done of this question in the past (and here is a good and brief video explaining the 2014 breakthrough study of this question, which study has been further confirmed by the others that have followed after it), the answer (as it was stated in that breakthrough first study) is “The [policy] preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy,” and, “In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes.”

CongressThe U.S. Government has lots of non-discretionary spending, which Congress can’t touch; but Congress’s priorities do entirely affect and shape all of the discretionary spending, and allocate well over half of it to foreign affairs (foreign polices) (the policy-area that was top for only about 2% of the U.S. public) including national security and the military as well as diplomacy, but overwhelmingly it’s dominated by the military, which is mainly spent in the Pentagon’s budget (the Defense Department, to which this coming year’s budget allocates $858 billion) but another approximately $600 billion of additional military spending is spent by the Treasury Department and other Departments, so that the vast majority of U.S. discretionary spending goes to the military (mainly to buy weapons and other goods and services that the armed forces need and that is heavily lobbied by the nation’s ‘Defense’ contractors such as General Dynamics, which depend on the U.S. federal Government for their sales-volume).

On December 20th, the Congress allocated $1.7 trillion total for the upcoming year, and added $45 billion (instead of Biden’s proposed addition of $38 billion) to the spending that’s specifically in order to help Ukraine to win America’s war against Russia in the battlefields of Ukraine, which country borders on Russia and is only 300 miles away from Moscow, which is why America’s rulers crave to control it, so as to locate America’s missiles there. The total that has been allocated this year (2022) to spend for Ukraine is $112 billion, because America’s rulers intend to place U.S. missiles just 300 miles away from Moscow. Ukraine’s border is the closest to Moscow of any nation’s border, and this makes Ukraine extremely valuable to America’s rulers. The allotment to come from America’s voters and taxpayers for Ukraine this year, $112 billion, is larger than the allotment for most entire U.S. federal Departments. The Washington Post reported that “The omnibus includes nearly $773 billion for a vast array of federal health-care, environment, labor, education and economic programs.” But many of those programs are mandatory, not discretionary, and therefore aren’t determined by this Congress and by the priorities of its members. However, the following policy-areas are discretionary, and so are among the 12 broad policy-areas that are discretionary and were listed on December 22nd in the Washington Post’s “Congress has a $1.7 trillion bill to fund the government. Here’s what’s in it.” and each of these discretionary policy-areas can be compared with the $112 billion that is going to Ukraine:

Commerce, Justice, and Science: $84.2 billion

Energy, Water, and related agencies: $54.7 billion

Financial Services and General Government: $27.6 billion

Homeland Security: $60.7 billion

Interior, Environment and related agencies: $38.9 billion

Legislative Branch: $6.9 billion

Transportation, HUD and related agencies: $87.3 billion

So: to the members of this Congress, helping Ukraine defeat Russia in the battlefields of Ukraine is more important than any of those entire U.S. federal Departments and agencies.

The leader of the Senate’s Republicans, Mitch McConnell, said in the Senate, on December 21st:

The reason that a big bipartisan majority of the American people and big bipartisan majorities in Congress support continuing to assist Ukraine is not primarily about inspiring speeches or a desire to engage in philanthropy.

The Ukrainian people are courageous and innocent and they deserve our help. President Zelenskyy is an inspiring leader. But the most basic reasons for continuing to help Ukraine degrade and defeat the Russian invaders are cold, hard, practical American interests.

Helping equip our friends in Eastern Europe to win this war is also a direct investment in reducing Vladimir Putin’s future capabilities to menace America, threaten our allies, and contest our core interests.

Democracy has nothing to do with his (and 98% of other Congress-members’) “core interests.” Nor do the policy-priorities of the American people have anything to do with Congress-members’ core interests. As former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said in response to a question about corruption in America:

It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. Senators and congress members. So, now we’ve just seen a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over. … At the present time the incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody that is already in Congress has a great deal more to sell.

Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.
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