Today is Tax Day. The media around the country are likely to focus on Tea Party activists and their flashy rhetoric about how no tax is a good tax and that the government has no business spending the people's money. These activists may be loud, but fortunately they do not represent most Americans.
Most of us would tell a different Tax Day story; one where we the people pay taxes to boost job creation and fund vital public services like schools, Medicare, and roads. While we grumble on April 15, we realize that taxes are an investment in our neighborhoods and our neighbors' and our own health and prosperity.
Unfortunately, that's not the whole story, either. Too much of our tax money - about half of it, in fact -- is going to fund wars abroad.
In most polls, the majority of the public wants peace and an end to the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The nearly $1 trillion we've already spent on these two wars could have gone a long way toward creating the jobs needed to reduce our nearly 10 percent unemployment rate.
So today, Tax Day, we should all remember that military spending is crippling job creation and that employed people help create and sustain our communities. Each dollar spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a dollar that could be better spent creating jobs here at home. A 2009 study by the Political Economy Research Institute examined the impact on the economy of $1 billion spent in different sectors. If we spend $1 billion in education, it will spur the creation of 29,100 jobs; in health, 19,600 jobs; in clean energy, 17,100 jobs. Spending $1 billion for the military, only 11,600 jobs are created. While it is true the military-industrial complex creates some jobs, there are more cost effective sectors that provide good, well-paying jobs and buttress our communities.
Of course the financial cost is not the only cost associated with military action. Over 5,000 U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans have died in the last eight and a half years of war. Their deaths cannot be forgotten - or measured in dollars. Morally, we cannot afford to continue funding more death and destruction. Practically, we simply can't afford it any more.
So, use today to inform people in your communities about how the government can more effectively spend their tax dollars. Talk with your co-workers, family members and neighbors. Help them understand that war spending isn't good for our country, and that tax dollars spent on job creation and other human needs will help strengthen the U.S. and save lives.
Secondly, tell Congress how you want your money spent. In addition to the 59 percent of the discretionary budget that already goes to military spending, Congress will soon be asked to approve a $34 billion emergency war funding bill to pay for the escalation of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Tell your representatives in Washington to say NO to the war funding supplemental. Sending more troops will only lead to more violence. U.S. efforts should instead focus on supporting Afghan-led peace building efforts, economic development, and regional diplomacy.
While you're communicating with your representative, tell them to support the "Local Jobs for America Act" (HR 4812), introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-CA), to help create jobs in your community.
While Tax Day makes most people cringe and some race to find receipts and fill out forms, our job is not over when we submit our materials to the IRS. We must also make sure that the government uses our taxes well -- to meet human needs, not to perpetuate war.
The 2009 PERI study can be found here.