The Children’s Defense Fund, a group focused on examining and ending child poverty, released a report recently that ranks the U.S. 34th out of 35 countries on handling child poverty in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, putting us only ahead of Romania. To eliminate 60% of child poverty would cost us $77.2 Billion per year, they estimate. Furthermore, the report says “Every year we keep 14.7 million children in poverty costs our nation $500 billion” because of the resources needed to care for them, and presumably for a loss of economic potential. This should be considered intolerable.
Poverty should be treated as a disease, particular for our youth, because of the toxic stress and mal nourishment that such a condition puts on a developing mind. It diminishes the chances of a child reaching full potential, and dramatically increases the chances of that child being in poverty as an adult. The people that prefer less aggressive policies on poverty are also those seeking to ban abortion. Do they only care about humans before they are born? What happened to all that stuff in the bible about helping the poor?
For gathering money to ramp up anti-poverty measures, look no further than the U.S. military. There is no greater example of government waste, but because we have a culture that glorifies the military as a do-no-wrong tool, there is inadequate scrutiny. A trillion dollars is being spent on the F-35 fighter jet during its lifetime operation. But what dog fights are we preparing for? Our air force as it stands is already completely superior to any other fleet in the world many times over. We have 10 aircraft carriers. Are we preparing for another Pearl Harbor? Are Somali pirates piloting nuclear submarines now? Why dump so much money on something that isn’t necessary for defense?
We have a severely bloated military budget that is prepared to fight the Soviet Union back in 1985, plus every wannabe jihadist. Even with major cuts, we are spending over $600 billion on defense, more than 6 times that of China, and still more than the next 7 countries after that combined. The wars of this century are insurgencies and rebel fighters sparring with autocratic regimes. Putting boots and tanks on the ground for occupation can’t vanquish the enemies we have today, and such an outdated strategy cannot possibly be a long term solution given the price tag our farcical engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, totaling $4-6 trillion when all is said and done. Imagine if we had spent that money here at home on infrastructure and jobs with the same earnest.
The problem is that our military industrial complex craves a righteous war like WWII. Weapon producers, munitions makers, hawkish politicians, and trigger happy psychopaths want to fight the good fight against uniformed men caught slaughtering the innocent and laughing at freedom. The founding fathers disliked the idea of a standing military precisely because of the immense cost that a standing army imposed on a population, and how difficult reducing it is.
We need a surgical military that can provide humanitarian assistance and limited security where it is most necessary. We should fully fund nuclear deterrence and security. And we should stand down anything that’s non-essential after that until there is a need for such an overwhelming preponderance of force. Our tax dollars are currently subsidizing world security that doesn’t need our massive 20th century military force at the ready. There is no reason to have the military capability to fight everyone in the world at once rather than using economic forces and diplomatic institutions to bend states. Regional allies all over the world can make it by just fine without us.
If there is ever a time within the next hundred years that the U.S. is genuinely threatened by another nation, or some war breaks out that our allies can’t handle, I promise you we will have no problem recruiting soldiers and making tanks to meet the challenge. Hell, everyone in congress would be itching to pour money all over it.
Until then, cut the military budget in half. Cut it by more if you can. There’s no reason $200 billion shouldn’t give us an adequate force to respond to crises abroad and here at home. Someone show me how $600 billion budget makes us all safer from terrorism compared to $200 billion. Let’s talk real fiscal responsibility.
Some people in the world hate us to the point of murderous zealotry. Throwing guns and bullets around everywhere only pours gas on the fire. Our paranoid fear of mortality forces us to spend disproportionately to every single other nation on earth. No matter how powerful we are, and how much money we spend, there will still be evil and people will be harmed by terrorism and violence. We simply are not fighting Nazis and Communists anymore.
Why not divert the money that is so very clearly wasted by our defense budget, and put it to use on jobs and poverty programs right here at home? Enough of this “moral hazard” nonsense about making life easier for those at the bottom. The real moral hazard of our time is the epidemic of massive inequality at the expense of the working man which has always been the backbone of our economy. There will always be people who can never rise above poverty with help, but that’s a terrible excuse not to try, especially when the equal opportunity of our youth is at stake.
We have our own problems here at home. The social instability and degradation of American greatness via ignoring the most vulnerable among us will produce far greater harm in terms of human and monetary loss than ISIS or Al Qaeda could ever dream to do. We need to invest in peace and prosperity at home rather than empire building and macho display abroad.