Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On Priorities...

Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry's fame, is heading a group called Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities. $2M has been raised by the group to lobby the presidential candidates to commit to reduce the size of the defense budget by $60B. The money would go towards education, children's health care, and energy independence. The Pentagon's current budget is $926B/ year.

The group also says that it has recruited 9,000 voters in Iowa who have pledged their support in the Democratic caucus to whichever candidate Business Leaders endorses. In a caucus as small as Iowa, that could wind up having a large impact.

From the website: "Former admirals, general and pentagon officials agree that the U.S. can safely trim $60 Billion/year from wasteful pentagon spending by reducing nuclear and other obsolete weapons..."

The $926B the US spends on defense dwarfs China, who spends the second most in the world at $122B, Russia ($59B) or the combined totals for the Axis of Evil ($10B). Of the Pentagon's massive budget, $463B of it is discretionary spending-- meaning it has to be renewed every year and does not include money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and does not include most of the Homeland Security budget, which is covered in other areas. It's mostly bureaucracy.

Meanwhile, when it comes to discretionary spending, K-12 education gets $38B, child's health insurance $50B, renewable energy research gets $2B, foreign humanitarian aid $13B, and the EPA $8B. Again, this is compared to the $463B given to the Department of Defense.

According to the website, here is what could be bought with the $60B taken out of the Pentagon's budget:

• Provide health insurance to 9 million American kids who lack it

• Rebuild or modernize our public schools over 12 years

• Retrain a quarter million workers

• Cut our reliance on foreign oil in half over 10 years

• Restore recent cuts in life-saving medical research

• Invest wisely in Homeland Security by inspecting cargo containers entering our ports

• Save 6 million children who die of hunger-related diseases in impoverished countries annually

• Begin to reduce the deficit

All of these investments could be made, year after year, without increased taxpayer expense.

In his farewell address, President (and former general) Eisenhower warned against our country's developing military/ industrial complex. Today, the two biggest industries in the US are weapons and movies. Where are our priorities? Why must every politician fear a moniker as "un-American" or "soft" because they want to decrease the military budget (ever so slightly) for these other benefits? And, more importantly, why will so few politicians challenge that assertion?

And another thing I really don't get is why this has to be a Democratic issue. Why is this group going straight to the Dem candidates, not bothering to waste their time with Republicans? I suspect it's a similar reason as to why leading Republican presidential candidates refuse to participate in a debate on minority issues. They have ceded the issue. They are not the party of ethnic minorities and their issues, and just accept it, just like they will always be for increased military spending, no matter how little sense it might make.


byrd said...

those stats are wrong. half of the US budget does not go to defense.

Chris Meehan said...

my mistake, that stat and the accompanying graph is for discretionary spending only... about 3/5ths of the total budget is allocated for non-discretionary spending, spending on things that are written into law- payment of debt, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security.

The REST is discretionary, and more than 1/2 of that goes to the DOD, but that does not include $ for the wars or most of the homeland security budget.

check out the site i linked to... i'll correct the post.