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The Pentagon.

Susan Shaer's picture

I grew up solidly middle class. So much has changed since then. We expect more. Two cars, not one.  More than one television per household. Air conditioning, not fans. All the new gadgets. What has also changed is that health care costs have soared. Cars and housing take up a larger percentage of income.  Education costs are out of control. Heat, air conditioning costs are soaring.

The safety net, so-called, is shredded for the poor and the middle class. The Republican dominated Congress has regularly cut federal funding for education, retirement, environment, roads and bridges, environmental clean-up and regulation, job creation and training programs – all program that help the middle class and the poor. Of course, it goes almost without saying that food stamps, programs for poor children and other social welfare programs are also slashed.

It’s savvy and nasty that they make so many cuts in so many places that it becomes class warfare and a fight among all the constituencies. It’s a divide and conquer strategy and its working. We need to be smarter. With the seesawing of Congress it’s hard to know what our federal budget will end up looking like at any given moment. We’re trapped in a guessing game - find the pea under the right cup.

In the realm of Pentagon spending, the newest gimmick is to top off the budget with a special slush fund, slyly called “Overseas Contingency Operations.” So, contingency meaning likelihood or emergency is interesting. Everything we give the Pentagon is for contingent emergencies.  We don’t plan our wars, do we? If we are, then we should stop. All the Pentagon can do is work toward what we might need. If contingency means likelihood, then woe is us.

It’s true that smart personal budgeting has contingency funds for emergencies like needing a new roof, fixing a failing car, or meeting a new medical need. Yet I need to repeat, that is already what the Pentagon budget is for. And it’s not like that’s a puny amount of money. In fact year after year, the Pentagon budget eats up over half of all of the discretionary spending that Congress appropriates each year. And it goes to the only federal department that is not audited.

Why? - Even the Pope said, “Why so many powerful people do not want peace? Because they live off wars!” I trust our military and thank the brave veterans who stood in for us in harm’s way. I loathe the way they are sometimes treated on their return. But when the poor, and now the middle class too, are being killed by a thousand cuts while there is a slush fund just waiting to gobble up dollars that could help real people, right now, I get angry.

Complain about it. It’s your right and your obligation. And it will make you feel good

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