Nothing is certain except birth and taxes. That’s right, I said birth and taxes. We know that babies will be born. We know that we will pay taxes. We know that eventually those babies will pay taxes too. In fact, that’s why we pay our taxes, to collectively invest in the future for our children. And they in turn will pay taxes to invest in the next generation. And so it goes.
Then why are we doing such a poor job of allocating our federal tax dollars to make a great world for the next generation? This Tax Day is a grand opportunity to start the pivot to such a future for our children.
We can agree that today's young people need certain basics so that they can become a vital part of our society and in turn help the generation behind them. And one of those is education.
As the mother of a 10 year old who attends public school I am shocked that we set aside only 6 percent of our federal discretionary budget for education, especially when I see that communities of color across the country are losing schools to budget cuts.
And as a person who has made regular payments on her student loans for 20 years, it worries me that this country’s student loan debt has reached $1 trillion and that many young people feel unable to pursue their dreams because of the debt they would incur.
Clearly, we have decided not to invest in education. So, what are we investing in? The Pentagon.
We set aside nearly 60 percent of our federal discretionary budget for the Pentagon, and much of that goes to waste and to pump up defense manufacturer profits. For instance, we’ve invested heavily in the failed F-35 Joint Force Striker, the most expensive weapons system in US history, with a total cost of $1.5 trillion. The F-35 is way overdue, way over budget, has been grounded twice, does little to address 21st century military needs, and is nowhere near completion. So why do we keep funneling money to Lockheed Martin to continue it?
For the $9.4 billion taxpayers forked over for the F-35 in Fiscal Year 2012, we could have invested in our children’s future by funding 100,000 elementary school teachers, and 135,000 scholarships for university students, and 200,000 Head Start places, all for one year. Oh, and we’d still have $36 million left over. (www.nationalpriorities.org.
One is tempted to think that with the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan we will soon enjoy a peace dividend and be able to start investing in education and other programs.
However, a recent article in the Financial Times by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes made it clear that there will be no peace dividend. “Indeed, the costs after withdrawal may exceed those during the war. Choices made in the past decade mean high costs for years to come – and will constrain other national security spending.” say Stiglitz and Bilmes.
Sadly, it will constrain national security spending in a broader sense as well —spending on education, health and housing programs that are vital to keep communities truly secure.
To be sure, many worry about cutting Pentagon spending because that means cutting jobs - but if we shift our priorities we’ll create jobs in other sectors. One study found that $1 billion spent on the military only created 11,000 jobs, while the same investment in the education sector would have created 26,000 jobs.
Today I’ll be walking the halls of Congress with my colleagues and 65 youth from around the country who want to send a message about federal budget priorities. These young people have all made short videos) that talk about the needs they have in their communities that are going unmet because of how we currently allocate our tax dollars.
They talk about overcrowded classrooms, ancient textbooks, underfunded and closed schools, among many other needs – and they will be asking their representatives to invest in their future instead of fueling further Pentagon bloat.
As a taxpayer, I hope their message is heard. I want my tax dollars to fund the dreams and aspirations of the next generation, not the nightmare of endless war.