1. Update
  2. Economic Justice, U.S. Wars & Militarism

Spending Speaks Louder than Words

By Ruth Flower, May 11, 2015

Budgets send messages about what’s important to us. The federal budget that the Congress passed sends a strong and disappointing message about who we are as a people: “We are afraid, and we don’t take care of our own. “

The First Message from this Budget: “We are afraid.”

We invest hundreds of billions in weapons and walls. Now Congress is proposing to add even more money to the Pentagon budget. Most of the weapons are overpriced, designed for battles that we no longer fight, or are so destructive we can never use them – like the nuclear weapons that would spell the end of the world. We also invest in other weapons that are surplus or simply have no use, so we transfer them to local police, transforming our police to an occupying army – against whom?

We are so fearful that we don’t need to consider whether the violent responses we threaten and sometimes carry out are even useful or effective. We stay at war for fourteen years in a region where U.S. military might only invite and incite more violence.

We are so fearful that we don’t need to count the cost.

We are so fearful that we don’t need to count the cost. Literally. We allow the agency that feeds our fear to spend money without accounting for it, without being responsible even for the billions wasted or “lost” (according to the agency’s own Inspector General.) We tell ourselves that throwing money at an agency that buys and owns weapons will make us safer.

But we don’t feel safer. We are even more afraid today than we were fourteen years ago, when our military budget was $200 billion less than it is now.

The Second Message from this Budget: “We don’t take care of our own.”

That’s the message Congress sends with the budget it will consider next week. To feed our fear, we shortchange our families, our children, our students, our elders. We have nearly 16 million children that cannot rely on adequate food to get them through the day, yet Congress proposes to cut funding for SNAP, the baseline program that keeps children fed and keeps almost 5 million people out of poverty.

We have more than 578,000 people who can’t afford a place to live -- 37 percent of them are families with children -- yet our lawmakers would dismantle a self-funding housing program that takes a micro-percentage off the top of government subsidized mortgages.

We have students who struggle to stay in school, knowing that, these days, a college degree or advanced certificate of some kind is necessary for a decent job – a job that can support a family. And yet our Congress would cut the assistance the government offers to the students with the least resources. Every which way that a family turns, the hand up that they need is being withdrawn. Families that cannot depend on private wealth to get their start in life are left holding an empty bag.

This budget sends a message that demeans America.

We’re better than this. We know, in our hearts, we have little to fear from the world. But we fear losing a job, getting sick or injured without health care, growing old without support. In our hearts, we are a kind and generous people who want to give one another a decent chance in life. We want our taxes to be invested in the kind of America that we see day to day in our lives -- not the one depicted in this budget.

Ruth Flower

  • Annual Meeting 2018 Keynote Speaker, Consultant, Native American Policy

Ruth’s work with FCNL began in 1981, when she joined the staff to lobby on domestic issues. After a decade with the American Association of University Professors, she rejoined the staff in 2006 to lead FCNL’s domestic lobbying team. Her leadership on lobbying and in coalitions has spanned issues from health care and federal budget priorities to immigration and the death penalty. In 2016, the Coalition on Human Needs honored Ruth at its Human Needs Hero Reception. Most recently, Ruth has worked with FCNL to launch the Native American Congressional Advocacy program.