By Kathleen Hall
There’s a lot of talk about balance in the budget between cutting expenditures and increasing tax revenue. There’s another kind of balance to consider on the spending side: domestic spending and military spending. The military budget has long been a sacred cow, but it’s time to look at it rationally.
Rather than automatically giving the Pentagon whatever it asks, let’s reassess our military mission with respect to terrorism, unrest and instability. Analyze what works, what’s needed, and what isn’t. And be suspicious of military contractors and politicians lobbying for more than the Pentagon asks.
The Defense Department is the only government agency that is not audited. (Thank Sen. Chuck Grassley for calling for an audit.) Pentagon contracts have a history of cost overruns, contractor abuse, quality failures and redundancy. In one year, the Pentagon loses, wastes or misspends $102 billion — more than the combined budget of the State, Interior, Commerce, Justice, and Energy departments.
Military spending is not part of a good jobs program. Investing in education results in two and a half times more employment opportunities than investing in the military, while investing in clean energy production creates one and a half times more.
Military spending is just too big to ignore. It accounts for about half of all the funds that Congress appropriates every year. Our per capita spending on the military budget has increased 72 percent since 1998. The U.S. military budget accounts for nearly 48 percent of global military spending, more than the next 29 biggest spenders.
Incidentally, veterans’ benefits aren’t even part of the defense budget. They come out of domestic spending, and nobody wants to reduce them. But the best thing we could do for the young men and women of our country is to reduce military conflict, and with it the number of veterans who will suffer from physical and emotional wounds.
Military budgets are swollen at the cost of other needed programs. What do we spend on peace? Worldwide, just $1 is spent on conflict prevention for every $1,885 on military budgets. Here in the United States, less than 2 percent of income tax goes to civilian foreign affairs agencies, while 39 percent goes to the military.
The conflicts of the future are going to be over scarce resources — arable land and drinkable water (not oil). We need not just diplomacy but also environmental action to prevent conflicts.
Let’s put our tax dollars where they will be of most benefit. And never forget: While war is costly, peace is priceless.
Kathleen Hall of Cedar Rapids is a member of Workers for Peace Iowa. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org