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Budgets Are Moral Documents -- Funding a People's Priorities

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Message Robert Dodge

This week the nation funds our priorities as we pay our annual tax bill. As the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners so eloquently stated -- "Our budget is a moral document, and it is either going to reflect the best of who we are or the worst."  Tax expenditures speak to who we are as a people. They define the sacrifices and choices we are willing to make as we look to the future for our nation and citizens young and old alike. Each expenditure is by necessity a critical affirmation of meeting the nation's needs. 

With a continued waning economy, each dollar becomes even more significant. So many issues remain under-funded or non-funded; therefore, the decisions we make are even more critical. From education, healthcare, infrastructure to environmental stewardship we are forced to choose and prioritize our needs. Yet there remains a gorilla in the room that not only threatens our very survival, it steals from the lifeblood of every community in our nation, depriving them of precious resources and taking a toll in opportunity costs -- the critical programs left wanting when funding is not available. I am speaking of the massive dollars spent on behalf of nuclear weapons programs. Once again, according to Stephen Schwartz, author of the "Atomic Audit," this number will exceed $54 billion for the current fiscal year.

The weapons that these expenditures support threaten our very existence every moment of every day. Every citizen and every community feels the burden of these costs. From our nation's poorest community Buffalo County, South Dakota with its 1,912 residents -- 49.3% who live in poverty -- spending $138,172 of its limited dollars, to Los Angeles County which spends over $1.7 Billion dollars, the costs are great and morally reprehensible. 

Public education is but one example of lost opportunity. On a daily basis school districts across the land deal with ever shrinking resources. As a Californian, I am terribly concerned for our state's public-financed education. California ranks #48 in the nation in per-pupil spending. As an American, I know the cuts in public education across the land will have an everlasting effect on the future of our nation and the world. Is this really what we want? Today's children are tomorrow's scientists, teachers, professionals and leaders. I ask, is this our priority? What is the ripple effect of such short sightedness? We all will suffer the consequences. This does not have to be the case. When will we speak up? We have an opportunity and responsibility to realize the possibilities before us. 

We now have bipartisan elder statesmen who are working to globally eliminate all nuclear weapons stockpiles. We even have U.S. Air Force researchers and RAND corporation nuclear planners who suggest the U.S. could address its military concerns with roughly 300 nuclear weapons. Current global stockpiles contain 19,500 weapons with over 94% in the U.S. and Russian arsenals. Nuclear weapons programs are not an entitlement program. They have outlived their Cold War purpose and it is now time to work to reduce and ultimately eliminate these dangerous weapons and wasteful expenditures. 

The choice is ours. National and international surveys have confirmed that a majority of U.S. and global citizens want to see nuclear weapons eliminated. Their continued existence encourages further spread of nuclear materials and weapons. Now is the time to redefine our priorities. 

We the People have an opportunity and a responsibility to make a difference. It is time for all of us to raise our collective voice and demand that the nuclear madness STOP. We can no longer gamble on our future by relying on luck to protect us from an accidental or intentional nuclear strike. Nor can we afford to waste precious resources on any program that does not add value to our future, let alone that threatens our very existence.

Every elected official needs to be questioned what they are doing specifically to work toward a nuclear-free world. You can contact your congressional representative or senator by going here. Let your voice be heard. For when the people lead, the leaders will follow.

And, you can go here to determine this nation's communities' nuclear weapons costs.

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Robert Dodge, M.D. is a family physican practicing in Ventura, California. He is a board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles ( where he is a Peace and Security Ambassador. He sits on the board of the Nuclear Age (more...)
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