Op/Ed

Ways of Seeing: My budget vs. the U.S. budget

A year ago the Independent published a guest editorial by Bill Schubart that included the startling fact that there is a “$437 million budget for the military’s 130 marching bands.” Setting aside the question of why each band needs to cost over $3 million, this fact got me interested in taking a close look at federal budget priorities compared to my priorities. 
Now, with the immense government spending to help people weather the coronavirus season, I feel like our government can pretty much do whatever it wants to do to support our people. So what does it want to do? 
As a Quaker (we are known for our peace witness and works), I have long been aware that the U.S. budget is heavily tilted towards war. The War Resisters League shows that military and veterans’ services totaled 48% of the 2018 U.S. budget. The National Priorities Project shows the 2020 budget as allocating 55% for the military. (My sources are published with this column at addisonindependent.com.)
Scanning other sources, the lowest total I can find is 23%, which is still nearly one-fourth of the budget. This figure may not include The Overseas Contingency Operations part of the U.S. emergency fund (which pays for war), or the FBI, cybersecurity, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security, which are all military in nature. 
According to the Congressional Budget Office before the COVID outbreak, the federal expenditures this year will total $4.6 trillion. A trillion is a thousand billions. Twenty-three percent of that is $1.058 trillion. 
I invite you to compare the U.S. budget to your own (major items only, it’s not possible to parse it down too far). The percentages listed are accurate for the federal budget. 
Food: 5%. Housing: 2%. Let’s pause here. Is your rent or mortgage payment 2% of your budget? Is food 5% of your expenses? 
Medical: 33%! Transportation: 0.5%. Paying interest on debts: 6.6%.
Social security: 33%. This can be compared to your paying allowances to your younger children and helping support any adult children or elderly parents unable to work.
Using the middle figure of 48% for the military portion of the federal budget, that means you’ll spend nearly half your income — and yes, I realize we’re running a deficit now; the U.S. budget runs a deficit — for:
Training your teenagers and young adult children to murder people on the other side of town. Also hiring people to find, force or punish those who try to refuse this training. Also making or buying the murder weapons. 
When they return from the killing, you’ll need to maintain physical and mental hospitals for those who need it, for the rest of their lives. Don’t forget financial support for the spouses and kids of the adult children who didn’t survive to make it home again.
Let’s not forget the marching bands. There are also allocations for telling people on the other side of town how to govern themselves, and sometimes policing them yourself.
To make this easier to grasp: If your annual income is $50,000, and you budget yourself according to the above U.S. government percentages, your total yearly expenses will come out to $64,285, plus utilities, childcare, and “extras” such as clothing, recreation, and education. This makes it obvious why the U.S. budget almost always runs a deficit.
Does this budget make sense to you? Does 2% for housing, 5% for food, and 23% to 55% for security/the military match your values? Does it match the reality of your life? Shouldn’t our government share our priorities for using our money, since it is our money that “they” are spending?
Does this budget encourage the values you are trying to instill in your children? I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to spend one-half, or even one-quarter, of my income on killing other people or dealing with the consequences of that. I don’t feel it makes me more secure. It makes me less secure, because when we threaten or harm others, they have the tendency to threaten and harm us in return. 
“Do unto others” and “Thou shalt not kill” are universal concepts. Do we spend our money — earned with our energy, our time, our lives — in a way that reflects what we say we believe?
Look at what you spend most of your money on. What would our society be like if the numbers were switched around so the government prioritized housing, food, cradle-to-grave healthcare at the uninflated prices many other countries enjoy, and education? 
How much of that $1.058 trillion military budget is actually making us safer? What might we do with even $1 billion for peacemaking? Can we make a Department of Peace with equal funding as our combined departments for war?
Shall we dream big?
Barbara “shulamith” Clearbridge offers interfaith spiritual direction and energy work healing. She lives in Middlebury and is the author of “Finding God/Prayers & Spiritual Practices from Many Traditions” and other books about wellbeing and health. Find out more about her online at FeelingMuchBetter.org. 

SOURCES
https://addisonindependent.com/opeds/guest-editorial-arts-humanities-can-be-problem-solving-force
https://www.cbo.gov/topics/budget
https://www.warresisters.org/resources/pie-chart-flyers-where-your-income-tax-money-really-goes
https://www.nationalpriorities.org/
https://www.irs.gov/statistics/irs-budget-and-workforce
https://www.thebalance.com/current-u-s-federal-government-spending-3305763
https://www.thebalance.com/u-s-federal-budget-breakdown-3305789
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_budget#/media/File:2018_Federal_Budget_Infographic.png

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