By Sen. Carolyn Nelson from Fargo
A message to Washington: Put dollars to work in a better way.
Our community, like the country at large, is constantly bombarded with growing needs. As a state legislator, I often hear from my constituents about flood control, roads, human services, veterans’ services and K-16 education.
Partisanship in Washington has threatened the federal government’s ability to address the concerns of our people. The federal budget consisting of our tax dollars is supposed to reach our neighborhoods with paved highways, public transportation and law enforcement, among other essential services. Communities all over the country rely on federal money to address their local problems. The petty arguments and lack of compromise coming from Congress directly affects our ability to provide needed services.
More than half of the federal discretionary budget is gobbled up by the Pentagon. Pentagon spending has almost doubled since 2001. The U.S. spends more on the Pentagon today than it did during the Vietnam War or the entire Cold War.
Reshaping the Pentagon’s budget is necessary to address 21st-century security needs in a strategic fiscally responsible and accountable way. This includes the reduction and eventual elimination of America’s nuclear weapons arsenal that is no longer applicable to modern security. This remodeling would allow for reinvesting in programs that have been slashed while the Pentagon’s coffers swelled.
Based on a report by the Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Pentagon spending actually ranks last as a way to create jobs compared to investing the same amount in health care, clean energy or education.
We must prioritize the needs of the men and women in the military over outdated expensive weapons systems. Is an over-budget, over-schedule plane estimated to cost $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years really necessary? Numerous security professionals across the political spectrum agree that F-18 and F-16 fighter jets offer all the necessary capabilities.
The federal budget is a reflection of our priorities and our values as a nation. In my opinion, Congress must decide to strengthen the economy and put Americans back to work, not gut the programs that benefit middle-class families, returning veterans and our communities. This should not be a partisan issue. We all want good efficient, effective government spending. Congress can protect the present and plan for the future by making smart, strategic decisions about Pentagon spending.
Nelson, D-Fargo, represents District 21 in the North Dakota Senate. She serves on the Government and Veterans Affairs Committee and is a state director for the Women Legislators’ Lobby, a program of Women’s Action for New Directions.