The Guardian June 23, 1999


US Budget reveals values

by Ben Cohen

A democratic nation's true priorities are revealed in its national budget. 
If you examine how a country spends tax dollars, you will understand its 
values and spiritual health.

Measured against this yardstick, our nation's number one concern is not the 
education of our children or the plight of the poor, but the profits of 
defence contractors and their lobbyists. Despite the collapse of the Soviet 
Union, Pentagon spending is still America's number one budget priority.

The total US defence budget exceeds $275 billion this year  18 times as 
much as the combined spending of all the potential adversaries identified 
by the Pentagon itself, including Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Cuba.

If you add the entire military budgets of Russia and China, the United 
States still spends twice as much.

And, as if the United States were somehow shortchanging the Pentagon, the 
Clinton administration is seeking a US$12 billion military budget increase 
this year, as part of a five-year, US$112 billion add-on, the largest 
Pentagon increase since the Cold War.

But the real national tragedy, and the top indicator of America's spiritual 
distress, is revealed when Pentagon spending is compared to other programs 
funded by the federal government.

For example in the current US budget, while the Pentagon receives US$276 
billion, the country spends US$31 billion on education, US$30 billion on 
children's health, US$21 billion on affordable housing, US$7 billion on the 
Environmental Protection Agency, and US$5 billion on Head Start.

This year about half the US$580 billion discretionary budget, or half the 
money Congress actually votes on, goes to the Pentagon.

The rest is divided among non-defence programs: e.g. housing and income 
security (10%); health (6%); education training and employment services 
(8%); and environment, science, agriculture, and energy (9%).

So a picture emerges of our country as sacrificing its core spirit and 
common humanity for militarism run amok.

It's a moral abomination to feed the Pentagon so much of our national 
resources while 11 million of our kids don't have health insurance and 14 
million attend schools that are crumbling.

However, we can align our national budget with the deep religious and 
spiritual values of our nation. Let's begin by transferring 15 per cent 
(about US$40 billion) of Pentagon spending to human needs.

Such a modest transfer, endorsed by military leaders including Lawrence 
Korb, former Reagan administration Assistant Secretary of Defence, would 
skim away only a small amount of the money wasted at the Pentagon, but it 
would be enough to provide new hope and strength to millions of people in 
need.

Here are some examples what a 15 per cent transfer could buy: 

* by choosing not to build just four F22s, originally justified to fight 
the Soviet Union, America could fund all 6,000 schools that applied for 
money for after-school programs;

* for the price of just four New Attack Submarines, designed to replace a 
submarine, America could provide a year's worth of Head Start to all 1.7 
million eligible children who don't have it;

* by reducing the nuclear arsenal to 1,000 nuclear warheads, which is still 
too many of these immoral weapons, America could provide health insurance 
to all kids who don't have it and reduce K-3 class sizes down to 18 
students.

America's spirit is weakened when our kids go to school in run-down 
buildings. When they go home to a decrepit apartment, the soul of every 
Press American is taxed.

But we can do something about this. By judiciously transferring wasteful 
Pentagon funding to human needs, we can strengthen the spirit of our 
nation.

* * *
*Ben Cohen is a founder of Move Our Money (MOM), a citizens campaign calling for reinvesting wasteful Pentagon spending in America's schools, kids, and other domestic needs.
* * *
People's Weekly World, paper of Communist Party, USA.

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