America’s Ballooning Military Budget Is a Boondoggle for Virginia Taxpayers

By Greta Zarro, Virginia Defender, May 19, 2022

Last month, President Biden proposed ratcheting up the Pentagon budget to $770 billion, far surpassing Trump’s sky-high military spending. How does this impact Virginians? According to the National Priorities Project, the average Virginia taxpayer paid $4,578 on military spending in 2019 alone. At the same time, Virginia currently ranks 41st in the nation in per-pupil spending on education, and studies show that just a $1,000 increase in per-pupil spending is enough to raise test scores, graduation rates, and college enrollment. This is just one example of our nation’s skewed spending priorities.

Likewise, the Pittsburgh bridge collapse earlier this year is a stark reminder of the risk of neglecting domestic needs, and one that hits close to home, since hundreds of bridges in Virginia are also structurally deficient and in need of repair. Our infrastructure is literally crumbling at the same time that our nation’s military budget gets higher and higher every year. We’re pumping billions into upgrading our nuclear weapons arsenal and maintaining 750+ military bases abroad — and the Pentagon can’t even pass an audit to account for where all its money is going. It’s time to cut the bloat and put our tax dollars where they’re really needed.

“Move the Money” is a national movement that calls on the government to redirect military spending towards vital human and environmental needs. Instead of the $2.3 trillion spent on the failed war in Afghanistan, imagine if that money had been spent on Americans’ real needs, such as infrastructure, jobs, universal Pre-K, canceling student debt, and so much more. For example, $2.3 trillion would have paid 28 million elementary school teachers for 1 year, or created 31 million clean energy jobs for 1 year, or provided 3.6 billion households with solar power for a year. The trade-offs are enormous.

The Move the Money movement starts in our cities, where dozens of municipalities across the country — including Charlottesville right here in Virginia — have already successfully passed resolutions calling for cuts to the Pentagon budget.

Americans are supposed to be directly represented in Congress. Our local and state governments are also supposed to represent us to Congress. Most city council members in the United States take an oath of office promising to support the U.S. Constitution. Representing their constituents to higher levels of government, through municipal resolutions like the Move the Money campaign, is part of how they can do that.

In fact, the Move the Money movement builds on our country’s rich tradition of municipal action on national and international issues. For example, as early as 1798, the Virginia State Legislature passed a resolution using the words of Thomas Jefferson condemning federal policies penalizing France. A more recent example, the anti-apartheid movement illustrated the power that cities and states can hold over national and world policy. Nearly 100 U.S. cities and 14 U.S. states divested from South Africa, putting the pressure on Congress to pass the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986.

Stocks in Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and other top arms makers are currently soaring due to the unfolding Ukraine crisis and the U.S.’s infusion of military armaments. This war is just the kind of leverage that weapons corporations need to justify continued lobbying for bigger defense budgets and corporate subsidies, year after year. But sending weapons into an active war zone will only further fan the flames of war, something we have witnessed on repeat throughout the 20-year ‘War on Terror.’

At the same time, our government must urgently reorient its own spending priorities to address Americans’ growing needs: skyrocketing hunger, homelessness, unemployment, student debt, and more. And contrary to popular opinion, studies show that investments in healthcare, education, and clean energy would create more jobs than military sector spending. It’s time to move the money.

Greta Zarro is World BEYOND War’s Organizing Director and an organizer for the Divest Richmond from the War Machine Coalition.

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