Budget for the future

A sliver of Pentagon’s lode would go a long way

Oct 26, 2015 by

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Much of the media has grown hushed about the chance for yet another U.S. federal government shutdown if a budget can’t be solidified by Dec. 11. That silence offers a chance to speak up for finally trimming military fat in favor of new solutions to challenges at home and abroad.

Defense spending should not be excluded from the possibility of budget cuts — something peaceniks and tea partiers should be able to agree upon.

Yes, Islamic State terrorism is scary, but the military seems to create more enemies than it eliminates with a budget that is bloated. The Budget Control Act of 2011 has a patina of putting limits on spending, but a national addiction to war sees fit to rise above the rules with the Overseas Contingency Operations fund.

Originally used to finance wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the OCO has little oversight and is not subject to sequestration cuts that began in 2013. The OCO consumed $64 billion this fiscal year, and the House and Senate have already approved a budget resolution that would increase that to $90 billion in 2016 — a $38 billion increase over even what the Pentagon requested.

At the very least, budget-wide caps and cuts should affect military spending proportionally equal to the rest of the budget.

“It’s a backdoor way to avoid the caps on military spending, while continuing the caps on addressing domestic human needs,” says Raed Jarrar, government relations manager with the American Friends Service Committee.

In the 2015 fiscal year, U.S. taxpayers ponied up $505 billion to the Department of Defense. But that doesn’t include the actual costs of war — things like the OCO, Veterans Affairs, military tax exemptions and Homeland Security. Nuclear weapons projects are shunted over to the Department of Energy’s budget.

Total defense-related spending is actually about $1 trillion, but even the DoD’s half a trillion dollars is simply too much to wrap one’s mind around. Instead, consider the value of a mere 1 percent of that, or $5.05 billion. According to the National Priorities Project, 1 percent of the DoD budget could be invested in more than 150,000 four-year university scholarships at $8,300 per year. It could annually pay almost $75,000 to nearly 67,500 elementary school teachers. It could purchase renewable electricity from wind for 5.69 million households. It could give nearly 2.2 million children low-income health care.

The DoD budget’s relationship to other departments’ funding is a crystal-clear expression of Americans’ misplaced faith, and U.S. Christians bear their share of responsibility. By comparison, the State Department only had $29 billion to pursue nonmilitary solutions globally, and international aid was a measely $13 billion. The golden calf we worship is the world’s richest military force.

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