Since its inception, the United States has been required to strike a balance between its role in global affairs and its interests at home. In a letter to New Hampshire senator and Federalist William Plumer, Thomas Jefferson noted that “I, however, place economy among the first and most important republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared.”
Jefferson’s assessment is apt and is as relevant today as it was when it was penned in 1816. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has offered a stark reminder of the cruelties of war.
Although we sympathize with the resistance to Vladimir Putin’s invasion, we cannot bankrupt our country by becoming a belligerent in another foreign war. With a national debt exceeding 120 percent of gross national product, rampant inflation not seen since the 1980s, and significant supply chain disruptions, the United States must first secure its own economy before assisting foreign states.
The United States spent nearly $5 trillion in response to the outbreak of Covid-19, leading to some of the highest sustained levels of inflation in U.S. history. In March, inflation hit a 40-year high, with gasoline prices up 48 percent year-over-year and energy prices spiking by approximately 32 percent in the same span of time.
Food prices have increased by nearly 9 percent. Used vehicle prices are up 35 percent. One would be hard-pressed to find an American consumer who has not felt the pain of a deteriorating economy caused by massive federal spending.
Thoughtless government spending has not only jeopardized the economic well-being of individual Americans but has also exacerbated the existing threat of our exorbitant national debt. I have repeatedly stated that the biggest threat to our national security is our national debt. In the last two years alone, the United States has borrowed more money than at any time in its history.
When the Ukraine Supplement Appropriations Act of 2022 was introduced in the Senate, I offered an amendment requiring a known, effective, and independent inspector general to oversee how funds were spent. If the Senate were to adopt a measure borrowing $40 billion to support a foreign nation, then the American people at least deserve to know that their hard-earned dollars were put to good use. If there is one thing that we should learn from the war in Afghanistan, it is that the chaos of war provides excellent cover for those seeking to defraud American taxpayers.
If the Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2022 is adopted, the United States will have sent $60 billion to Ukraine since 2014. This amount is nearly ten times the $6.4 billion we spend on cancer research every year.
Prioritizing the interest of other nations over our own will not end well. The present assault on monetary discipline is untenable, and unless we end this fiscal insanity, a day of reckoning awaits us. Not only are we flirting with financial ruin, but we also risk inadvertently entering a war with another major power. President Biden’s call for regime change in Russia, coupled with Congress’s willingness to provide seemingly limitless aid to Ukraine, has made our final objective unclear.
Congress recently approved more than $14 billion in aid to Ukraine, and the United States has nearly emptied our armories of critical and costly weaponry to support Ukraine. If the Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2022, as currently drafted, is adopted, our total aid to Ukraine will almost equal Russia’s annual military spending. Most Americans, especially our veterans who have seen firsthand the consequences of endless wars and regime changes, oppose war with Russia and support a reduction in U.S military engagement.
In times like these, we would be well-advised to heed Jefferson’s wisdom and pursue a course of “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”