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Why is it a BAD Idea to “Throw Money at Schools” But OK to Spend More on Wars?

May 10, 2017

As readers of this blog realize, I have long advocated that we should find a way to spend as much on schools serving children raised in poverty as affluent parents are willing to spend on their children. The usual retorts to this kind of thinking is “Throwing money at a problem won’t solve it!” or “We can’t afford to spend our taxes to hire more teachers and/or pay them more money”!

But, as Truthout writer William Hartung notes in his article titled “The US Way of War is a Budget Breaker: Never Has a Society Spent More for Less”, US political leaders feel free to spend money on the military. How much?

(T)he Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute released a paper demonstrating that, since 2001, the US had racked up $4.79 trillion in current and future costs from its wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria, as well as in the war at home being waged by the Department of Homeland Security.

But, as those who follow the budgets in Washington realize, that isn’t enough! Evidently we need to spend even more if we hope to win our ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria. As Hartung writes:

On the dubious theory that more is always better when it comes to Pentagon spending (even if that means less is worse elsewhere in America), Trump is requesting a $54 billion increase in military spending for 2018. No small sum, it’s roughly equal to the entire annual military budget of France, larger than the defense budgets of the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan, and only $12 billion less than the entire Russian military budget of 2015.

And where will the money come from? NOT from taxes! We’ve spent $4,790,000,000 without raising taxes! Why should we start now. The President has a better way to fund the war: with budget cuts to other government programs! The bold faced cuts would have a direct and indirect on the poor:

Trump and his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, have pledged to offset this sharp increase in Pentagon funding with corresponding cuts in domestic and State Department spending. (In a military-first world, who even cares about the ancient art of diplomacy?) If the president gets his way, that will mean, for instance, a 31% cut in the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget and a 29% cut in the State Department’s. Eliminated would also be $8 billion worth of block grants that provide services to low-income communities, including subsidies for seniors who can’t afford to heat their homes, as well as any support for 19 separate agencies engaged in purely peaceable activities, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Legal Services, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AmeriCorps, and the Appalachian Regional Commission, which invests in economic development, education, and infrastructure projects in one of the nation’s poorest regions.

But the most stunning phrase in the entire article appears at the beginning of a section describing the cost for various parts of the military budget. It reads:

The Trump administration has yet to reveal precisely what it plans to spend all that new Pentagon money it’s requesting…

The sentence could just as accurately read: The Trump administration advocates throwing money at the military helps! One thing is certain: if the military budget were frozen and a President asked for $54,000,000 to increase programs to help children raised in poverty there would be shrieks from Congress that such an increase was unwarranted and unsustainable! And at least one of those protesting would say “You can’t throw money at the problem and expect to solve it!”

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