When I was growing up, my single Mom worked hard as a minimum wage waitress at the local golf club to put food on the table for our family and to pay the mortgage. Mothers care about the well being and security of their families. As a legislator and a grandmother of 18, I carried that concern as I proudly introduced and passed the Women’s Economic Security Act, a series of bills aimed at updating workplace policies that are holding women and their families back. This Mother’s Day, we hope that Members of Congress are also thinking about their roles as caregivers and providers not only in their own homes, but for the nation as a whole.
The federal budget which is made up of our tax dollars is an important blueprint for meeting the security needs in our communities. In Minnesota and in Congress, the budgets we craft allow us to have clean drinking water, public transportation, schools, law enforcement, paved roads and highways, and other essential services. Communities like ours rely on federal money to be safe, healthy, thriving and economically sound. Yet, Congress continues to allocate inordinate sums to the Pentagon and its programs, to the detriment of our national and economic security.
More than half of the federal discretionary budget that Congress appropriates each year is taken up by the Pentagon. Pentagon spending has skyrocketed, almost doubling since 2001. The continued growth of the Pentagon budget comes at the expense of necessary, vital programs that help our most vulnerable citizens – children, the elderly, veterans, the unemployed, women and their families.
Reshaping the Pentagon’s budget is necessary to address 21st century security needs in a strategic, fiscally responsible, and accountable way. For example, spending the planned $350 billion over the next decade on U.S. nuclear weapons is unwise and imperils our security. These weapons are ill-suited to address today’s threats like cyber attacks or nuclear terrorism. In fact, greater numbers of nuclear weapons means a higher likelihood for accidents, terrorism, and diplomatic crises.
We must include prioritizing the needs of the men and women in the military over outdated expensive weapons systems. Programs that serve veterans and military families in Minnesota and across the nation are being eaten alive by the country’s militarized budget.
When it comes to creating jobs, Pentagon spending actually ranks last compared to investing the same in healthcare, clean energy, or education, according to recent studies by economists at the University of Massachusetts. It is politically irresponsible to cut investments that strengthen our economy and benefit American families while turning a blind eye to obvious areas of potential savings in Pentagon spending.
The federal budget is a reflection of our nation’s priorities. Congress must choose between fighting for economic security, keeping America economically strong, and protecting our most vulnerable citizens versus siding with special interests while continuing to spend billions on wasteful programs that military leaders don’t even want. This spring and summer, Congress should focus its work on strengthening the economy, as we have done in Minnesota with the Women’s Economic Security Act, raising the minimum wage and strategic investments in early childhood education.
This Mother’s Day I want to thank my Mom for her smart, strategic decisions for my future security. Let’s ask Congress to safeguard our nation’s future with strategic investing, not more wasteful Pentagon spending.
Senator Sandy Pappas is President of the Minnesota Senate and Vice President of the Women Legislators Lobby (WiLL), a program of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND)