Fifty-five percent. Fifty-five percent of the discretionary budget of the United States goes to the Pentagon. Education? Six percent. A sliver. Transportation? Another tiny fraction, 3 percent. Even veterans, the men and women whom our leaders have sent to wage various fickle international interventions, only to receive a measly 6 percent toward their benefits upon returning home.
Hawks like Condoleezza Rice, whom we have the pleasure of hearing from this week at the University of Minnesota, chide those who oppose interventions in Syria but hardly lift a finger to fight the backlog of benefits claims in the Department of Veterans Affairs. They are content with sending troops into Iran but scoff at the millions of Americans who live in poverty. They say we must reassert our dominance over Russia in Ukraine but ignore the single parent who is forced to work multiple jobs because he or she is not able to earn a living wage.
Let’s face it: This nation’s spending priorities are backward, and they aren’t changing. In 2001, about $400 billion went to the military. By 2012, $668 billion was funneled into the Pentagon. These numbers don’t even include the more than $1 trillion spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
This is why the Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project is using the simple resolution process to fuel a public debate on military spending. Several city councils, including those in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and more than 150 organizations and leaders throughout the state have endorsed the MN ASAP resolution to reduce Pentagon spending and transfer that money into more responsible programs.
As the wealthiest nation in the world, the United States is privileged. Let us use that wealth responsibly and humanely by investing in public education, fixing our crumbling infrastructure, creating healthy food options for all people, relieving the burden of student loan debt and making a public higher education more affordable, along with addressing countless other problems that have been neglected by our politicians.
Decrease Pentagon spending. Invest in our communities.
Patrick Alcorn lives in Minneapolis.