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Misplaced Republican Spending Priorities Part II

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As I was getting ready to write about how the Republicans have let the country’s infrastructure collapse, just like the 8-lane Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed yesterday at rush hour, I saw Stephen Crocket’s article on misplaced Republican spending. This got me all riled up about wasted lives and wasted money again.

It is difficult to pick apart the US budget in an itemized fashion, but it is undeniable that the US is spending a massive amount of taxpayers money on the military and secret programs… money that many Americans would most likely prefer to be spent other ways. Estimates of how much the US spends per year on the military, “homeland” security, intelligence agencies and secret projects (like the terrorist surveillance program) can not be accurate, because these figures are not fully public. But the number is between $700 billion and a trillion dollars (1000 billion dollars) per year.

Compare this with somewhere around $28 or so billion for The National Institutes of Health. That means that we spend about 30 times as much money on our military industrial complex as we do on biomedical research into potentially curable diseases.

As General Norman Schwarzkopf once said… if hundreds of thousands of Americans died in a foreign attack, we would mobilize the entire country to fight back. He then said that is exactly what happens every year when hundreds of thousands of people die unnecessarily every year from potentially curable diseases. But instead of putting more money into research, we put it into the military industrial complex.

Dollar for dollar, spending money on NIH saves many more lives than military spending, which actually takes lives, rather than saving them. There is no threat to the US now that is going to take even as many lives as are lost from a single type of cancer, let’s say breast cancer (about 40,000 per year).

Many Americans still have a love affair with the military, as though it were something romantic and majestic, rather than something destructive and harmful, even to the soldiers who serve. Biomedical research just doesn’t have that ability to capture people’s imaginations. But it is one of the most important things we can do with our tax dollars.

The horrific collapse of the Interstate Highway bridge in Minneapolis yesterday highlights the other major victim of our perverse military spending. The infrastructure of the country is crumbling, but we are trying to rebuild Iraq, rather than rebuilding America. The steam pipe explosion in Manhattan, the power blackouts, the repetitive explosions and fires at oil refineries all are symptoms of an aging infrastructure that needs immediate attention.

But as long as we occupy Iraq, we will be spending money that we don’t even have, money that we must borrow from foreign banks and will have to repay with interest, to keep the oil fields of Iraq in US hands. That money should be spent here in the US, on biomedical research, infrastructure, education and to meet other critical needs right here at home. By the way, we spend about 10 times as much to finance the debt every year as we spend on NIH research, just to put the debt in perspective.

To be honest, you shouldn’t write congress about this right now. Right now we need to push for investigations and impeachments, and to get out of Iraq immediately, so unfortunately, these other critical issues need to go on the back burner, at least for now. Just keep in mind that your family members will most likely die prematurely from a potentially curable disease like cancer or heart disease, not from a terrorist attack.
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John R. Moffett PhD is a research neuroscientist in the Washington, DC area. Dr. Moffett's main area of research focuses on the brain metabolite N-acetylaspartate, and an associated genetic disorder known as Canavan disease.

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