6 July 2009


To the Editor:

            At the recent Mid-Ohio Valley Multi-Cultural Festival, the Mid-Ohio Valley Friends (Quakers) hosted a booth where 125 participants voted on their priorities for how the federal government should spend our tax money.  Leaving aside Social Security and Medicare, for which we pay into separate trust funds, and the interest on the national debt, which is mandatory to pay, the rest of the money spent by the federal government is considered discretionary, where changes can be made.  Festival attenders voted on 14 general categories, such as natural resources & environment, military, administration of justice, energy, international affairs, etc.  The results were spread fairly evenly throughout the categories, The only ones receiving over 10% of the votes were, from the highest, education (16%), energy, natural resources & the environment. Two related categories, the military and veterans benefits, added together to total 15%.

            How do these locally-selected priorities compare to the federal government's actual spending of discretionary funding?  According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation (www.fcnl.org), at least 43% of the 2008 federal discretionary spending went to past (nearly 14%) and present (30%) military programs.  This includes sub-categories such as training, nuclear weapons clean-up, interest on the military debt, and many more. This is clearly the highest portion of the federal government's discretionary spending, and hence the first place to exercise budgetary oversight. Is this large portion of our federal budget being spent efficiently to actually increase our security and peace in the world?

            In fact, the Pentagon is the only federal department that does not have to meet audit standards and report regularly to the Office of Management and Budget.   It has never passed an audit, weapons programs are known for cost overruns, and billions are unaccounted for in Iraq, not to mention the problem of civilian ‘no-bid contracts’.

            According to FCNL, five straightforward ways to reduce military spending are to prevent wars, of course, to reduce the dependence of the U. S. on oil, to introduce accountability and transparency to Pentagon spending, to cut outdated programs and weapons, and to reduce the number of U. S. bases overseas.


[Thank you, Jane Hearne, hoping you will sign this letter in the paper as “Mid-Ohio Valley Friends Meeting”]