May 29, 2018
America spends a lot of money on its military. And by “a lot of money” we mean “a LOT of money.” We’re talking about—are you sitting down?—$700 billion a year. Having trouble wrapping your brain around that number? Consider this: for the same amount of money, you could buy 175 million pints of Ben & Jerry's! Hope you’re hungry…
Well, we are—hungry for equity and justice. During week 3 of the 40 Days of Action, the Poor People’s Campaign is looking at “Militarism, the War Economy, Veterans, Education, and Our National Priorities.” And that’s got us wondering why it’s so easy for our government to spend all that cash on war—and so hard for it to support veterans when they return home. Our nation’s priorities need rearranging. Let’s put the $$ and the focus back where they should be: on helping people.
Maybe It’s Time to Wage Peace?
The military spends a mind-boggling amount of money on weapons, new technology, and much more every year. For just one example, take a look at the F-35. Years overdue and way over budget, this controversial next-generation fighter jet has blasted right by cost estimates at every turn, even while many critics are questioning its ability to do what boosters say it will do. While the F-35 gets the lion’s share of media attention when it comes to pricey military programs, the truth is that you could look anywhere and find forehead-smacking spending controversies. A recent analysis suggests that the Pentagon can’t account for $21 trillion in spending between 1998 and 2015. You read that correctly. $21 trillion… and no one can be quite sure where that money went.
Well, we know where the money SHOULD go. Give a big chunk of it to the men and women who actually put their lives on the line for this country. Of course, so far it seems that the current administration doesn’t agree with our priorities.
In his 2019 budget, President Trump has requested $8.6 billion to go toward the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve mental-health services for at-risk veterans. But compare that to the most recent spending bill he signed into law, which includes nearly $700 billion for the military. Do those numbers seem a little off to you? At-risk veterans, apparently, deserve only 1.2% of the military budget.
Our Veterans Need Help
Unfortunately, there are a lot of at-risk veterans. Suicide rates among veterans are substantially higher than among civilians. A study has found that 20 veterans a day kill themselves. A 2015 paper discovered that veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars go hungry at a rate more than double the civilian rate. In 2016, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture, an estimated 39,000 veterans were homeless.
Meanwhile, the Veterans Administration (VA) isn’t doing much to help. The VA provides medical care for more than 9 million veterans and their families, operating 145 hospitals, 300 veterans’ centers, and 1200 outpatient sites. It also administers programs to help veterans with education and buying homes and oversees more than 130 national cemeteries. Many veterans have been complaining for years that it takes too long to get medical appointments through the VA. Other reports have surfaced looking into excessive and inappropriate spending. It’s a mess.
Maybe that’s why the VA has such a bad reputation. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 34% of Americans expressed an unfavorable view of the agency. And yet, despite everything, a majority of people (75%) said that if they were making the federal budget, they would increase spending for veterans’ benefits and services. Our veterans deserve it. More than that, they NEED it. Our post-9/11 wars have cost the country $5.6 trillion. It’s time, finally, to stop and look at the human cost as well.
What You Can Do
The more of us who talk about this, who educate each other, who pressure our politicians and take to the streets, the sooner change will come. Join the Poor People’s campaign and you’ll receive updates about what’s going on all over the country during their 40 Days of Action campaign, happening now through June 21st.
Join The Movement!
But even if you’re not able to get to any of the marches, protests, teaching sessions, or events, you can still get involved. Each week, these recurring events will be live streamed from Washington, DC via the Poor People’s Campaign Facebook page:
- Sundays: Mass Meeting, 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm EST
- Tuesdays: Truthful Tuesday Teach-Ins, 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm EST
- Thursdays: Thursday Justice Jam Nights, 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm EST
Why not invite some people over and watch it together? Start a conversation. Get to know each other. Share some food and share some ideas. The connections we make matter. We need each other. We’re all in this together, and we’re building a movement meant to last.
We’ll see you again next week, June 3 - 9, when the theme is The Right to Health and a Healthy Planet.
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