Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Itís time to look at Pentagon budget


I love the Fourth of July. It is the time when families gather to watch the Hailey Rodeo, friends light their grills for backyard barbecues, and children gear up for candy gathering during the annual parade down Main Street.

As I celebrate with fireworks, picnics and parades, I feel great pride for the United States and for Idaho. However, as we head into election season, there's serious work to be done on the federal budget in Washington, and decisions made will impact us here in Idaho.

If enacted, looming budget cuts will have dire consequences for our state. Though there are signs that we are recovering from the recession, times are still incredibly tough. We have already been forced to cut education, health and human services, and transportation. We cannot afford the devastating cuts that would come with the proposed House budget or the ominous automatic sequestration cuts to federal funding across critical programs like health care and transportation.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is the one category of spending that is not slated for cuts under the House budget plan. In early May, the House approved $8 billion more in Pentagon spending than they agreed to in last summer's Budget Control Act. How will we pay for that? By cutting other programs even more than they have already been reduced. On top of that, some are now trying to exempt the Pentagon from automatic sequestration cuts slated to take effect in January 2013. This would result in even deeper cuts to other programs and investments like education, national parks, clean water programs, medical and scientific research and clean energy. Everything else would suffer while it'd be business as usual at the Pentagon.

There is agreement across the political spectrum that what we need here in Idaho and across the country to ensure a strong America is jobs. Some defense-industry supporters have argued that that cutting excessive Pentagon spending means losing good jobs. The reality is that investing our tax dollars in non-Pentagon sectors would actually create more jobs. University of Massachusetts economists studied how many jobs could be created with $1 billion of federal spending, and found that spending on education, healthcare, mass transit, weather remodeling projects, or middle-class tax cuts, creates more jobs with our budget dollars.

As a 21-year-old member of the Millennial Generation, I am grateful for our nation's security and for all the sacrifices made to keep us safe. However, the only America I have ever known is one at war. If we are to make the nation safer for future generations, we should start by allowing my generation to first know a country without war and debt. We spend billions of dollars on outdated weapons that are not designed to meet 21st century security needs. How many times do we need to be able to blow up the planet with our nuclear weapons? We cannot afford to continue doling out limited dollars for Cold War-era relics when 12.7 million Americans are unemployed.

The time has come to take a hard long look at Pentagon spending and pinpoint how it can be safely cut. It is far more important to our security to make sure that the youth of our nation is healthy and well-educated, with jobs waiting for them when they graduate, and that our planet is still habitable when that time comes, than it is to stockpile weapons from the last century. As we celebrate our nation's independence, let's make sure that we invest our dollars wisely for a safe and prosperous future.

Bronwen Raff, of Hailey, is a senior at Tufts University. She is working this summer for a political action committee called Women's Action for New Directions.

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