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Agree with these priorities?

The US has 4.5 % of the world’s population and around 20% of its income. It’s the developed world’s most unequal major nation, with the rich getting richer and the middle class declining. By 1995, 1% of the population owned 47% of the nation’s wealth and the wealth gap between whites and blacks quadrupled from 1984 to 2007.[i] The child poverty rate is over 20% in the US.[ii] Census Bureau data for 2010 indicated the poverty rate climbed to 15%, or 47 million people, including almost 50 million without health insurance. [iii] Young people are hard hit, with 45% of those 25-to-34 year-olds living below the poverty line and survive by living with family or friends. The gap between the rich and poor is the highest its been in 70 years, according to Robert Reich, former US Secretary of Labor.

He points out the crash of 2008 was caused by Wall Street excesses and, more fundamentally, recession is caused by so much income going to the very top so the majority don’t have the money to spend to get the economy back on its feet. The superrich like the Koch brothers use their billions to corrupt politics and enlarge their fortunes. He warns that “the politics of anger” over increasing inequality fuels the rise of politicians like Sarah Palin who “offers pure snark and promises revenge—‘We’re going to take America back.’” Reich suggests balancing the budget with a small percent surcharge on incomes over $2 million and a 0.5 tax on all financial transactions.[iv]

[ii] Kids Count Data Book, Annie E. Casey Foundation, July 27, 2010.

[iii] “Poverty Up,” Syracuse.com, September 19, 2011


[iv] Robert Reich. Afterschock: The Next Economy and America’s Future. Knopf, 2010

Despite recession, world military spending is increasing; it almost doubled to reach $1.53 trillion in 2009. The US is the biggest spender—more than the combined defense spending of all other countries,[i] followed by China ($119 billion) and the UK ($59.6 billion).[ii] US spending increased to $720 billion in 2010, more than half of federal discretionary spending in 2010 and more than any year during the Cold War, adding to the national debt of about $1.5 trillion.[iii] The cost of one soldier for a year in Afghanistan was $1 million in 2010.[iv] The cumulative cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is over $4 trillion, including spending for veterans and foreign aid, but not counting interest payments on the debt—mostly deficit spending on the wars—or continuing medical expenses fro wounded veterans.[v] These two countries are among the most corrupt nations, so it’s not clear what the $6 trillion achieved. The world’s second largest expenditure is probably on the illegal drug trade, estimated to be worth $400 billion a year.[vi]

The US spent $450 billion on the military but only $15 billion on global poverty in 2004—the percentage of US aid has decreased for decades although it remained less than 1% of the US spending in 2011.[vii] In America, 37 million people live in poverty and don’t have enough to eat; yet estimated $860 billion dollars were spent on the Iraq by 2009[viii] and the US has the most overweight population in the world. It costs about $1.2 million a year to send one US soldier to Afghanistan.[ix] Shehroz, in Pakistan, suggests, “Watch a movie named Charlie Wilson’s War. In this movie, it is shown that America spent so much money in cold war yet very little money in rebuilding and rehabilitating Afghanistan, thus giving rise to Talibans and the current situation in Afghanistan.”

A Pakistani teacher, Saifur points out that literacy is the key to alleviating poverty and terrorism:

In our region people want education, but they are not given chances for being literate and to have a voice against the so-called lords and Khans of the area. Literacy is a torchlight and people of the area can be empowered to explore many ways of getting livelihood and to alleviate their poverty. It’s is a curse leading to the prevailing unrest and Talibanization, thus flaming the region. They will also learn how to stay healthy and happy by maintaining their hygienic level high through cleanliness, which is also a part of our faith, but they don’t know, as they are illiterate.

Cancel nuclear bombs; invest more money in other stuff instead of security, suggests Ariel, 17, m, Israel. At a UN organized World Youth Conference in 2010, the NGO Global Meeting of youth-led organizations asked governments to invest at least 5% of their national defense budgets in development programs for young people. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell explained, “The war against terror is bound up in the war against poverty.” In his study of Islamic terrorism and suicide bombers, journalist Lawrence Wright found that young men’s despair, humiliation and rage fuels AlQaeda and its theme of death and martyrdom, despite the Koran’s prohibition of suicide or killing innocents.[x] With no hope of a good life on earth, martyrdom has appeal: Wright explains, “We think of al-Qaeda as a terrorist organization. Young people think of it as a suicide machine” and embrace death over life.

[iii] Gordon Adams and Matthew Leatherman, “Five Myths About Defense Spending,” The Washington Post, January 19, 2011, p. 12.

David Woods, Politics Daily, February 2010


[vii] M.  Berman, Dark Ages America the Final Phase of Empire, 2006

[ix] Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, March, 2011. http://demilitarize.org/category/fact-sheets/

[x] Lawrence Wright, HBO special My Trip to al-Qaeda, September 7, 2010.




“Costs of War Since 2001,” Eisenhower Study Group at Brown University, 2011. http://costsofwar.org


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