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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/15/11

State Education Cuts, National Defense Increases

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   3 comments
Message John Iacovelli

Florida's legislature has cut $1.35 billion dollars from classroom spending. Across America,  other state legislatures also make cuts. In Washington, Congress prepares to vote on a nearly $700 billion defense budget, and our forces extend operations into yet another country.

The Florida House of Representatives spent twelve minutes debating the cuts. The amount is 8% of classroom instruction spending, $545 per child. Teachers will be laid off, supplies will not be purchased, classrooms will become more crowded, and the children's education will suffer.

Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, in explaining how difficult it was to trace bank bailout funds, said "money is fungible." Is there a connection between foreign wars and reduced education spending? One way to find an answer is to ask just how much military spending changes over a long period, factoring out inflation.

With two annual tables, and a little arithmetic, it's easy to calculate military spending in constant dollars. The Government Printing Office lists defense outlays between 1940 through 2010. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the annual Consumer Price Index.

It's best to describe with a graph and a few bullet points:


U.S. Military Spending 1940-2010 in Billions, 2010 Dollars. Click to view full size.

  • Spending starts very, very low and rises very, very quickly to its peak because of World War II spending.
  • The highest spending, ironically, occurred in 1945, after the end of the war. The costs of standing down were high. Looking at just the full years of the war, 1942 through 1944, spending averaged $744 billion dollars, adjusted to 2010 dollars.
  • Spending between World War II and the Korean War was only around $100 billion 2010 dollars annually.
  • Thereafter, Cold War annual budgets averaged between $300 and $400 billion 2010 dollars, with a bump for the Vietnam War, up until the 1980's.
  • In the Reagan/Bush I years, spending climbed to $550 billion 2010 dollars.
  • The Clinton years saw a return to the $300 to $400 billion level.
  • In the ten years since 2000, spending skyrocketed. The 2010 outlay was $694 billion. That is 93% of the average spending for the WW II years, 1942 to 1944. It is an 83% real increase, 2010 vs. 2000.

One can argue that the spending since September 11, 2001 was to answer a threat to the security of our soil. But analysts have shown much of the increase (other than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars) was for programs such as Navy shipbuilding, anti-missile systems, and base installations that appear designed to fence in Russia and China, our old cold war enemies. Al Qaida has no aircraft carriers or missiles that can reach the U.S.

Money is fungible, as Mr. Bernanke told us. With such a huge increase in the government's biggest discretionary program, decreases in revenue from the recession and lowered taxes -- is it any wonder we're laying off teachers?

Here in South Florida, in Broward and Palm Beach counties, some of us have formed a group called War vs. Human Needs to educate ourselves and petition our legislators. We believe that education, essential services such as police and fire-fighting, infrastructure rebuilding and other domestic needs should have a higher priority than foreign wars.

War vs. Human Needs is currently presenting a series of seminars entitled "Your Tax Dollars: Where Do They Go and Do They Serve You?" This forty minute presentation explores the question of how our tax dollars are being allocated and who reaps the benefits. Through videos, hands-on demonstrations, and interactive dialogue, we examine where our taxes are being spent, who gets to decide, and what we could be buying instead if we weren't spending for war. For more information on schedules, contact War vs. Human Needs via Facebook.

We hope that community pressure on our politicians will at least lead to a debate that lasts more than twelve minutes about the country we leave to our children.

Copyright (c) 2011 John Iacovelli. Website:

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I am a professional in the computer field whose specialty is databases. I grew up, went to school in, and lived in New York for many years. I have lived in Florida for twenty years now, and it is a wonderful place to see and experience nature. I am (more...)
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