Life in the United States only comes with two certainties: you will eventually die, and you will pay taxes up until that fateful day. While we may never know what is in store for us after our inevitable demise, the fate of our tax dollars is fortunately far less mysterious (Usually being used to facilitate death in some middle-eastern countries). Normally, if you ask someone what they think their taxes goes towards, they would respond with answers such as roads, schools, and bridges. There is no question that a portion of tax money goes into domestic necessities such as improved infrastructure and education spending. However, there are many other sectors, especially in the United States, that receive a disproportionately large portion of our tax dollars.
To begin, I must address how the federal government decides to spend our money. Federal spending is divided into three groups: mandatory spending, discretionary spending, and interest on the debt. Mandatory spending is spending that Congress legislates outside of the annual appropriations process while discretionary spending is made on a year-to-year basis. Interest on the debt speaks for itself; it is the percentage of the annual budget that is allocated towards the interest on the country’s national debt.
For the sake of this article, I am going to focus on the discretionary and mandatory spending portions of the federal budget. The mandatory spending sector of the federal budget totaled $2.45 trillion in 2015 with social security/unemployment/labor and Medicare/healthcare making up the majority of the spending. On the other hand, discretionary spending totaled $1.11 trillion in 2015 with the military, government, and education being allocated the most money during that fiscal year.
Needless to say, the US has an enormous federal budget and it has no signs of decreasing anytime soon, but the one sector I want to highlight is the military budget. The military budget comprises over 50% of the discretionary spending by the federal government with almost $600 billion being set aside for defense spending. What this means is Congress is consciously on an annual basis allocating over half a trillion dollars to the military. To me, this is completely unfathomable. The United State’s military budget is larger than the next 8 countries combined, most of which are considered our allies. With that said, doesn’t it seem right to decrease the military budget so we can improve other sectors such as education, energy, and infrastructure?
Approximately 68.9% of every tax dollar that the average taxpayer pays goes to defense spending. Could that not be reduced a little so we can focus on more important things instead of bombing people? Right now, it looks like the federal education budget for fiscal year 2017 will be slightly beneath $70 billion. I can only speak for myself, but that is an outrage; the government chooses to spend astronomically more money on building tanks , bombs, and drones than it does on educating the youth in the country. The military even acknowledges it does not need some of the equipment that is being made for them. Wouldn’t more money being allocated towards education enhance a kid’s ability to become prosperous? Shouldn’t that be the goal: to have better educated people, thus making the economy better? The US ranks 5th in money spent per student, but still trails many countries in performance in sectors such as math and science. One could assume a little more money in the budget could change that.
If the government chose to deflate the military budget, not only could education be improved, so could our infrastructure and energy, a sector that is vital to the survival of the country and planet. If more money were invested in energy, then there would be more funds available for research into renewable and clean energy resources. Fossil fuels and non-renewables are obsolete and they do more damage to the Earth than they do good. It is not plausible to allocate more money to improve the living standards for the future generations?
Infrastructure is another sector that needs more money, which could be achieved through a lower military budget. Infrastructure spending is necessary for a prosperous economy and US roads and highways need a massive overhaul. Over the next decade, if our infrastructure as a whole is not improved then it is projected the economy will lose $4 trillion in GDP along with 2.5 million jobs.
Indeed, Donald Trump has a huge test ahead of him.
I am not saying that other sectors of the federal budget do not need an overhaul, but military would be a great place to start. It does not fundamentally make sense to keep mass-producing military weapons and vehicles when there are other areas that drastically affect the nation’s prosperity more. All it takes is a little re-prioritization from Congress and it could be done since the military budget is set on an annual basis. Our allies such as England, France, and Saudi Arabia are among the highest defense budgets in the world, but we cannot afford to cut our budget down to maybe $500 billion? That would save almost $100 billion and could be invested in things that will actually benefit the American people.
I am going to take a page out of the Donald Trump handbook and say that we need to focus on America first.
–Contributed by R.A.