Fighting for a U.S. federal budget that prioritizes peace, economic security and shared prosperity
When we talk about hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars, it’s easy to get lost in the massive numbers and to lose sight of what those changes in resources could really mean in the context of people’s lives. So here are some points of comparison to put it all in perspective.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that the cost of eradicating homelessness in the United States is about $20 billion annually. Advocates place the price tag of eradicating hunger across the country at about $26 billion annually. Estimates indicate that every home in America could be powered by wind and solar energy with expenditures of about $80 billion each year. For about $12 billion per year, we could create 160,000 new clean energy jobs to kickstart a Green New Deal. Tuition-free public college could be provided for about $70 billion per year. It would take approximately $165 billion per year to cover health care costs for every uninsured American. And though estimates vary, it would take about $300 billion per year to cover the difference in transitioning to a Medicare For All system from what we have now.
The point is that budgets tell us a story about how our government wants to use its power and resources. Line items determine who lives and who dies, who eats and who doesn’t, who gets what kind of education, and who gets to go to the doctor without fear of bankruptcy. The latest budget suggests that we are a nation intent on pouring more money into unwinnable and destructive wars, more fighter planes that don’t work, and more bonuses for defense contractors. It suggests that we are a nation not particularly concerned with lifting people out of poverty or confronting the climate crisis. But this is not what we aspire to be.
Polling indicates that cutting into the Pentagon budget to invest in other priorities like jobs, health care, or the environment is politically popular. People understand that some fraction of waste in the Pentagon budget could be better spent to improve their lives and they want to see it happen.
That’s why it’s so important for candidates to use their platforms now to speak with specificity about the federal budget. They should tell us how they want to see tax dollars spent if they are to become the next president, because that helps us understand what they think is valuable.