Where’s the Money?

by Craig Cline

On January 4th, the Statesman Journal ran an Associated Press article entitled:  “Most state budgets on path to even leaner times.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that state budgets are likely to fall $180 billion short for the new fiscal year. According to the Pew Center on the States, our own Oregon is ninth among the ten “worst” states, and 30th among all states, with a 14.5 percent budget gap for 2009-10 (as of July 2009).

If We Had Our Druthers

Oregon is short billions of dollars and is in danger of following California into a budget abyss.
Worse yet, it is projected that even when the current economic downturn ends, it will take Oregon and the other states a number of years to get back to their pre-recession funding levels.

The worst of our financial problems is exhibited at the federal level; unlike the states, the federal government doesn’t have to balance its “budget.”  Incredibly, our nation has over $12 trillion in red ink — that is 12,000 billion dollars!  Did you know that it would take approximately 32 years to count to just 1 billion, at the rate of $1 per second?  That means it would take about 384,000 years to count our national debt — an almost incomprehensible number, wouldn’t you agree?

If we taxpayers had our way, we’d send less in taxes to the federal government and, therefore, have more of our money available for citizens’ needs in our towns, cities, counties, and states.
We’d spend our money paying for our kids’ education, our public infrastructure, our 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations (which do us more good than we can ever truly appreciate, and at a “bargain” price), and all manner of necessities for the public benefit.

I believe that if “we the people” had more of our own money to use locally, we would find ways to repair and rebuild our local economies and not have to keep hoping that we get federal grants to keep us muddling along (those grants being a return of our tax dollars).

We Need the Money at Home

In order for us to have a strong nation, we must unite and build strength within each state.  We must not continue to allow our social and physical infrastructures to disintegrate from within.  We must create true “homeland security” state by state.

Where can we get the money we need to re-build the strength of our states? I propose we get it from the massive military budget — $741 billion for FY 2010, if President Obama gets all he’s asking for.

Between the fiscal years of 1998 and 2009, the amount we taxpayers spent on both current and past military items (which includes veterans’ benefits) increased by 131%!  That percentage includes an allowance of $200 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan war spending.  Arguably, these wars are wars of choice, and not of necessity.

It has been estimated that we will soon exceed $1 trillion in spending on these wars of over eight years’ duration — the longest in our history.

I want to support our troops to the maximum — both when they’re rightfully away and when they come home.  But I do not want them engaged in unfathomable “wars on terror” in other countries when I see what could be called economic terror here in my own country.

Smoke and Mirrors

It is not commonly known that these “federal funds” do not include trust funds — such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  The trust funds are raised and spent separately from income taxes.  We taxpayers are deceived by the government’s presentation of what is called the “Unified Budget,” which began during the Vietnam War.  The practice of combining federal funds together with trust funds makes the so-called “human resources” portion of the budget seem larger, while the military portion seems smaller, on a percentage basis.

This questionable practice deserves our scrutiny and investigation at the very least, and, better yet, a revision that portrays the truth behind the budget more accurately.

What we as a nation are doing now does not work in concert with the words of the Preamble to the Constitution.  Indeed, we are not “providing for the common defense,” nor “forming a more perfect union,” in the modern sense of those words.

A Modest Proposal

I’d like to see us citizens demand that Congress redirect a percentage of military spending back to the states.  Let’s say it amounts to only 10% of the current $741 billion budget, or $74 billion. That would still  make up about one-third of the $180 billion shortfall that the states are projected to struggle with in this fiscal year alone.

Recall the words of former General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower:  “every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.  This world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the houses of its children.  This is not a way of life — under the cloud of war, it is humanity hanging itself on a cross of iron.”

He was right.  Our public tolerance of unnecessary wars and their gargantuan cost should end.  We are spending untold billions of dollars that we don’t have on wars that we don’t want.  We need our money for our defense, for our homeland security, and for our internal strength.  That money — our tax dollars — should be spent primarily here in our United States, and not in the quagmires of Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

I ask that each of you personally do something to address these vital issues. Make your voice heard!

We finally rose up in public protest to bring an end to the wrongful war in Vietnam, didn’t we?  To all the 70 plus million “baby boomers,” I say that it is high time for us to protest together again.

Better yet, I think it would be in our national security interest for businesses, educational organizations, religious organizations, non-profit organizations, and our millions upon millions of veterans to become allied forces.  They should join together with the “boomers” in forcing Congress to redirect some of our tax dollars back to where we need them most — right here at home, providing for our common defense.

Our country’s future depends on our current actions.  Will you please help?  Begin by passing this letter on to your own sphere of influence.  Theoretically, if “we the people” speak, Congress will listen.  Let’s find out. Φ

Craig Cline is a Salem, OR businessman and long-term OPW supporter.

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