Less Money for War

You'd never expect citizens of a country at war to favor a cut in the Pentagon budget.

Yet, that's exactly what a poll released last Monday indicates.

If they were in charge of the federal budget, a clear majority of 65 percent of Americans would shift money from the Pentagon budget to other priorities, including deficit reduction, human needs, and renewable energy development.

The average survey respondent favored cutting the Pentagon budget by $131 billion – or about 31 percent.

The poll, conducted by the Program on International Policy Alternatives (PIPA), should inspire our political leaders – particularly Democrats – who've been scared to advocate even the most sensible Pentagon budget cuts for fear of being labeled "weak on defense."

But the survey indicates that, as the war on terrorists drags on in Iraq, more Americans accept the idea we should honor basic human dignity at home and that our notion of "national security" must be expanded to include economic and environmental safeguards. And Americans are willing to cut the Pentagon budget to pay for this.

For economic security, not only would Americans take money from the Pentagon to reduce the deficit, they would also increase programs for job training and education. For basic human decency, poll respondents would move money from defense to veterans' benefits and housing.

The most popular – and the most telling – budget increase was a remarkable $24 billion increase (1,090 percent) federal funding for renewable energy. Other environmental programs also were increased by respondents.

But the fact that renewable energy programs are so popular underlines the idea that Americans are beginning to get the idea that sound energy policies, like freeing America from its dependence on Middle East oil, can make our country more secure. And clean up the environment. All this is essential for true national security.

Now it's up to our politicians to find the guts to respond to American's common sense view that our national budget priorities are mixed up.

If they have an ounce of principle, they can do it. How?

There are at least $50 billion in savings that can be extracted from the Pentagon budget and applied to the programs Americans want increased. We don't need an array of programs that were started during the Cold War and are still being pursued, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and America's new focus on terrorism.

These programs include stealth submarines, stealth destroyers, and fighter jets, Star Wars, nuclear weapons, overseas deployments, and more.

Additionally, it is now well-established that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been costing taxpayers $55-60 billion annually. So why is Congress about to approve more funding for Iraq for this year, amounting to $81 billion?

Two of every three Americans, according to the PIPA poll, favors cutting this year's "supplemental" funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan by an average of $30 billion.

This also could be achieved with no impact at all on our national security or the effectiveness of our troops deployed in the Middle East. Over $30 billion could be extracted from the costs of our military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and added to the $50 billion in savings we can easily squeeze from the Pentagon budget.

Interestingly, the PIPA poll showed that Americans favor exactly these types of cuts of Pentagon weapons and programs that are no longer needed for current threats.

But the biggest battle is not to convince the public but the leaders inside the Beltway.

Even in this time of war, the American people are on the butter side of the old "guns versus butter" debate, but when will our political leaders have the courage to put a net over MIC (Military Industrial Complex)?

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