Let’s Expand Our Definition of Defense

November 26, 2010

by Craig Cline

There appear to be no easy ways out of the financial difficulties we face.  We have “money messes” at our local, state, and federal levels. There is one big thing that can help us though, and I propose that all of us get behind the following objective, with all the political and financial power we can muster, starting right here in Salem-Keizer.

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Where the Money for Our Schools Is

Our collective goal would be to redirect some portion, 10% for example, of the massive Dept. of Defense (DOD) budget, to specifically improve the conditions of the schools in our communities.

If we could get Congress to accomplish only that one national objective, we would have approximately $70 billion for schools.  Using simple math, we could allocate an average of $1,400,000,000.00 to each of our 50 states.

As part of this citizen-based initiative, we could demand that our Congress get us out, and keep us out, of any and all wars that are not absolutely, beyond the shadow of a doubt, justified.

We taxpayers are already in debt nearly $14 trillion dollars.  That is 14,000 billion dollars, a gargantuan sum which would take about 448,000 years just to count, at $1 per second! We have already spent at least $1 trillion on the wars we’ve waged since 2001.  What if we had spent that money waging peace instead?

I believe that peace begins here “at home,” and that we must spend our precious tax dollars primarily in the United States, on our true needs.  Endless wars are not among those needs.

The leaders of the so-called “deficit commission” have put the idea of reducing the Pentagon’s budget on the Congressional table.  Now is the time for us citizens to proclaim our support for that idea and make it actually, finally, happen.

21st Century Defense

The very Constitution of our country, in its Preamble, says:  “We the People…, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare….”  The modern day definition of defense should allow U.S. taxpayers to defend America against deterioration from within, and thereby enable the rehabilitation of our vitally important schools.  Renovating our schools would most certainly promote our general welfare as a nation, wouldn’t you agree?

The National Priorities Project provides an on-line calculation of the amount of our tax dollars that have gone to war since 2001.  The costofwar.com website reports that Salem’s citizens have contributed about $338 million as their share.

You will recall that in November of 2008 we passed a school bond measure in the amount of $242 million, to upgrade 48 existing schools and build 4 new ones.  Clearly, our schools are of great importance to us.

Did you know, however, that the actual “needs” for our schools were calculated at about $500 million?  From that perspective, the bonded indebtedness we took on was $258 million short.

If we had not contributed $338 million to war, we’d have been able to cover the shortage and have $80 million left over!

An obvious advantage of re-directing DOD spending to our schools is that it would create jobs.  I call upon our local Chamber of Commerce, which advocates for over 1,200 businesses, to lead local support for “DOD Redirection.”  In so doing, our Chamber would be a great role model for other Chambers across the nation to follow.

Lifting the Community’s Boat

The television show, “School Pride,” has shown its viewers how incredibly valuable it is for schools to receive necessary “makeovers.”  Because schools are so important to people, identifying needed improvements can cause the “community-at-large” to rally and unite in support of accomplishing those improvements.  As a result, most all of that community tends to benefit from the positive energy that flows through it.  The tide of improvements to the schools lifts the community’s boat!

To get started, I suggest we first focus on our kindergartens through elementary schools.  If we create the best physical learning environment for our kids and teachers, the best learning will likely occur.

Because basic education, early in kids’ lives, is the foundation upon which their future success is often built, it is critically important that we citizens give our schools what they need and deserve.

I hope that organizations like the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation will seize upon this idea of being a voice for the redirection of DOD spending and, in cooperation with our citizens and our businesses, help the Salem-Keizer area show the kind of leadership that our whole country would benefit by seeing.

I further hope that you will play a personal role in helping to accomplish this mission.  Please consider passing these thoughts on to other people within your sphere of influence.  Φ

Craig Cline is a Salem-area businessman and OPW supporter. You can contact him at candccline@aol.com.

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