This was copied from archive.org, from 2009, but the argument has remained unchanged for ten years (I relinked this content in 2019.)
Setting the Priorities Straight
The Priorities campaign believes that America can solve, or start to seriously address, many of the most difficult problems we face. We can create a national budget that is responsive to domestic and international needs. And we can do it without raising taxes or creating new ones.
How? By insisting that Congress create sensible budget priorities. By reducing government waste and using the savings to strengthen American families and communities.
The Priorities campaign focuses on Pentagon waste for two reasons:
Because a panel of career military experts says cutting the Pentagon budget not only would not harm our defense, but might enhance our national security, and
Because the $463 billion Pentagon is so unaccountable that not only could the Dept. of Defense not pass an audit, its books are in such bad shape that an audit cannot be performed. See Financial Mismanagement in the Department of Defense Report.
These are problems that Congress created and has allowed to fester because political candidates benefit politically (as in more jobs in their districts) and monetarily (as in campaign contributions) from military manufacturers. Because the men and women in Congress benefit from this broken system, we can’t expect them to fix it until Americans demand it, elect new leaders, or both.
Where is the waste?
About three-fifths of the federal budget covers expenses that are written into law, including payment on the national debt, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. This is usually called “mandatory” or “entitlement” spending.
The part of the budget that the President and Congress create each year is called the discretionary budget. In the just-concluded fiscal year, more than half of the discretionary budget for a total amount of $463 billion was spent by the Pentagon. These dollars don’t include funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan , nor do they include most homeland security programs, which are paid for in other areas of the budget.
Update and context: From 2008 to 2018, US military spending rose from $463 billion to $643 billion. This does not include the actual cost of fighting wars or deploying troops – just the overhead cost of maintaining a massive military industrial complex.
In contrast to the $463 billion spent by the Pentagon bureaucracy, look at what we’re spending on federal programs that politicians often describe as too expensive:
$38 billion on K-12 education ,
$50 billion on children’s health insurance,
$13 billion on humanitarian foreign aid,
$6 billion on job training,
$2 billion on renewable energy research,
$8 billion on the Environmental Protection Agency.
When presented with these facts, two-thirds of Americans would change these budget priorities, shifting funding, as we propose, away from the Pentagon and into programs that benefit communities and families. See the Program on International Policy Attitudes
Our prestigious panel of high-ranking retired military and Dept. of Defense officials says $60 billion can be trimmed from the Pentagon budget without putting our troops at risk, weakening our national defense, or hurting our ability to fight terrorists. According to Dr. Lawrence Korb, who served as President Ronald Reagan’s assistant secretary of defense, the savings would come primarily from cutting obsolete Cold War weapons and excessive nuclear weapons from the defense budget. See Korb Report for more information.
Even after trimming $60 billion from the Pentagon budget, America would spend nearly as much on defense as does the rest of the world combined. We would spend more than triple the amount spent by Russia , China , and the Axis of Evil combined.
Where is the waste?
Here’s what America could accomplish with that $60 billion. We could:
Provide health insurance to 9 million American kids who lack it
Rebuild or modernize our public schools over 12 years
Retrain a quarter million workers
Cut our reliance on foreign oil in half over 10 years
Restore recent cuts in life-saving medical research
Invest wisely in Homeland Security by inspecting cargo containers entering our ports
Save 6 million children who die of hunger-related diseases in impoverished countries annually
Begin to reduce the deficit
Our nation could make these investments year after year-at no additional taxpayer expense.
That’s our vision of what we could accomplish, a vision embodied in our Common Sense Budget Act . But ours is not the only vision. It’s amazing what we could buy at the local level with the dollars wasted at the Pentagon. An allied organization, the National Priorities Project, has worked out what New Hampshire could buy with the tax dollars that instead go to ballistic missile defense, nuclear weapons, and the war in Iraq . Check out the National Priorities campaign for more information.
Just imagine the bravery it would take to live behind a fortress that was merely equal to the next country’s spending?!