Last week at this time, I was in Washington to visit the West Virginia Congressional delegation. My goal was to talk about the upcoming fiscal cliff, with the automatic budget cuts of 8 percent across the board, on top of the $1 trillion in budget cuts already passed. I wanted to encourage Congress to cut $1 trillion from the Pentagon budget and do their best to leave the social services funding in place.
The so-called discretionary funding is what pays for such things as special help for learning disabled children, food stamps, help for battered women, heating help for the elderly, all things which have helped our citizens move toward living a fuller life.
One trillion dollars sounds like a lot, but we are talking about spreading the cuts over 10 years. That would mean $100 billion per year. At present, the Pentagon budget is about $6 billion per year, not counting what we are spending on the present wars. Many of the items which would be cut are not really useful to our defense these days: they are armaments that date from the Cold War confrontation with Russia. We do not need to renew our stocks of nuclear arms, for example, and build new missiles and atomic submarines. This is what we are trying to deter Iran from building, and we don't need more bombs, either.
As the Armed Forces work toward finding better ways to deal with insurgencies, we need to scale back on the armed response to violence. We need to spend more on the diplomatic side.
The trillion dollars that would be cut can be spent on renewing the infrastructure in the United States. Bridges, tunnels, highways, sewage and water plants, all could be rebuilt, reimagined as greener and more efficient, while at the same time people would be put back to work.
I would urge all of our citizens who are concerned about the fiscal cliff to consider this solution and urge it on our lawmakers. We know now that a concerned citizenry can defeat the lobbyists and make our system work again. Let's join in now and make our voices heard.
Judith D. Seaman