As members of Congress are weighing fiscal cliff cuts, as well as reconciliation of the National Defense Authorization Act, members of the Ohio Legislative Progressive Caucus sent a letter seeking a reprioritization of defense spending.
The letter sent to Ohio's Congressional Delegation can be found below.
December 18, 2012
Dear Senators and Representatives
We, the undersigned members of the Ohio General Assembly, urge you to consider the American people, and the citizens of Ohio, first when voting on defense spending. The National Defense Authorization Act, spares the bloated defense budget from necessary reductions while inflicting catastrophic cuts to essential domestic programs. It is not only unfair to Ohio taxpayers, but unjust and reprehensible to all Americans.
While the necessity of fiscal responsibility is keenly understood by those of us at the state level, we believe that our ultimate obligation is to our constituents when tough decisions must be made. The economic downturn has dramatically affected state and local treasuries, severely depleting our ability to alleviate the continued suffering in our communities. Meanwhile, the Pentagon budget continues to balloon out of control due to wasteful spending, duplicative programs, and enormous cost overruns.
While the people of Ohio continue to struggle with the fallout of the drastic cuts enacted in the latest biennial state budget--and in light of increased need, persistent joblessness, and the crumbling infrastructure of our state--we ask that you consider the following facts when weighing the merits of further defense spending :
- Excluding the $5 billion that has been spent on the Afghan war this year, nuclear weapons, and other agencies with military-related programs, Ohio taxpayers will contribute $24.7 billion to the base Pentagon budget in Fiscal Year 2012;1
- This amount--for one year of military spending--is nearly equal to Ohio's annual state budget in totality, and is more than triple the amount of the state's most recent biennial deficit, which forced cuts of billions of dollars to local governments, K-12 and higher education, and essential services;
- Military expenditures can be reduced by at least one trillion dollars over the next decade without sacrificing American security or the safety of our troops according to the bipartisan 2010 report entitled, "Debts, Deficits and Defense." These reductions can take place without diminishing our nation's and our state's unwavering support for the brave servicemen and women in the field of combat.2
Given the state of our people, our infrastructure, and the frailty of our economic future, the unprecedented legislation now before you, that sacrifices the well-being of our constituents for that of the military-industrial complex, constitutes a shocking misallocation of national resources. We ask you, as our colleagues and as our leaders in Washington, to press for a dramatic shift in federal budget priorities.
While our nation spends more on the tools of war than at any time since World War II--including during the Korean, Vietnam, and Cold wars--we are neglecting growing crises at home:
- The unemployment and underemployment situation remains desperate throughout the United States and Ohio, especially among the young and communities of color. Job creation in both the public and private sectors is essential to our economy, yet state and local governments are forced to cut positions, placing a continued drag on economic recovery;
- Funds are desperately needed to update America's crumbling infrastructure. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, our nation's system of transportation, sanitation, and energy warranted only a grade of D. If left unaddressed, these crumbling national resources could sap trillions from our nation's economic output and jeopardize our future prosperity;3
- Tremendous cuts in education funding across the country undermines the quality of our schools, places the futures of our children at risk, and places our state and nation at a competitive disadvantage in the future. In Ohio's latest budget, nearly $2 billion was cut from K-12 education alone, meaning fewer teachers, diminished resources, and lower quality preparation;
- In return for their astute preparation for the future, college graduates and former students now carry over $1 trillion of student loan debt, an amount that surpassed the nation's credit card debt in the second half of 2011.4 This huge overhang places a further drag on the economies of our state and nation.
- The recession, and the subsequent job loss and reduction in family incomes, has led to a dramatic increase in and realignment of poverty, accelerating the need for emergency food and shelter services. Over 15 percent of Ohioans5 and 21 percent of our state's children live in poverty;6
- The physical and mental health needs of our veterans are badly underfunded, and too many find themselves unemployed and without care after their dedicated service to our nation. Blocking the Tricare healthcare system for military retirees requested specifically by the President will continue to place the burden on other social programs.
For these reasons, it is absolutely imperative that federal spending be reprioritized toward investments in our own people. We believe that this effort warrants bipartisan consensus, and is of the utmost importance to the American people and our constituents. We stand ready to help in any way necessary.
Representative Ted Celeste
Representative Robert Hagan
Representative Nickie Antonio
Representative Mike Foley
Representative Nancy Garland
Representative Teresa Fedor
Senator Edna Brown
Representative Sandra Williams
Representative Dennis Murray
Senator Nina Turner
Representative Roland Winburn
Senator Charleta B. Tavares
1 "Trade Offs: Ohio" nationalpriorites.org, 2012, National Priorities Project, http://nationalpriorities.org/en/interactive-data/trade-offs/state/OH/program/14/ tradeoff/0/.
2 Debts, Deficits and Defense: A Way Forward, Report of the Sustainable Defense Task Force, 11 June 2010.
3 2009 Report Card for America's Infrastructure, 25 March 2009. www.asce.com/reportcard.
4 Brown, et al., "Grading Student Loans," 5 March 2012, Federal Reserve Bank of New York http://libertystreeteconomics.newyorkfed.org/2012/03/grading-student-loans.html.
5 U.S. Census Bureau, "Table 709," Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012.
6 "Profile for Ohio," Kids Count Data Center, 2009, Annie E. Casey Foundation, http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/bystate/stateprofile.aspx?state =OH&group=Featured&loc=37#6480.