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THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES… Guns vs. Butter By Sherry Cannon

Sherry Cannon

Guns and Butter refers to how a government allocates its resources to defense vs. social programs. The United States has historically been the world leader in defense spending. The 2021 defense budget is $705 Billion and is expected to increase to $715 Billion for the year 2022, which represents 11% of the total federal budget. Safety net programs are about 8% of the federal budget.

Since September 11, 2001, U.S. military spending has increased 50%, while education, healthcare, public transportation, and investment in science has grown only 13.5% over the same time period.

According to a Brown University report, the Afghanistan War has cost this country $2.3 Trillion. The country spent $300 million per day for twenty years in Afghanistan. Likewise, the Iraq War cost a total of $2 trillion. A total cost of $6.4 trillion was spent on the “War on Terror,” which includes spending in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and  Syria. This country has gone into deep debt to pay for these wars.

In the middle of these expensive wars, two Republican presidents passed deep tax cuts that benefited the top 1%, adding to the national debt. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, President Bush’s 2001 & 2003 tax cuts equaled $1.5 trillion. The richest people in the country received an average of over $570,000 in tax savings over the period of 2004-2012. These tax cuts added $5.6 trillion to the deficit between the years 2001-2018. The Bush tax cuts were responsible for roughly one-third of the federal debt owed by the year 2018.

The Bush administration promised these tax cuts would help improve economic growth, but in reality, they ballooned deficit and debt and contributed to the rise in income inequality. 

In 2017, Donald Trump passed the Tax Cuts & Job Acts at a cost of $1.9 trillion between the years 2018-2027. These tax cuts have had little or no positive effect on the United States economy, according to the Congressional Research Service. 

Instead of using the money from tax cuts to increase production, create more jobs, or to raise the wages of workers, CEOs of large corporations used their access cash to pay dividends to shareholders and in buying back stock shares.

By reducing corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%, the Trump administration tax cuts also reduced the federal tax revenue by 31% in year one. The Tax Policy Center shows that the national debt jumped 39% under Donald Trump from $19.95 trillion to $27.75 trillion.

Republicans spend like drunken sailors when they are in power but become deficit hawks when they are not in power. The Trump tax cuts passed without a single democratic vote by using a senate rule, which allowed the bill to pass with only fifty-one votes, rather than sixty votes.

Fast forward to October 2021, Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are refusing to vote to increase the debt limit. The debt limit does not authorize new spending but allows the government to borrow to meet existing obligations that Congresses and presidents have made in the past. These existing obligations are Social Security, Medicare, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments.

President Joe Biden and the Democratic controlled Congress are working to pass legislation called “The Build Back Better Plan.” This initiative is paid for by repealing Trump’s 2017 law, which will ensure that wealthy Americans and corporations pay their fair share.

The Build Back Better Plan is designed to help the average American have an opportunity to be on an equal playing field with wealthier Americans.

The plan will lower childcare cost by providing universal pre-school for children 3-4 years old and provide 12-weeks of paid family & medical leave.

Lower the cost of higher education by providing 2-years of free community college, increase Pell Grants by $1500, and make substantial investments in HBCUs. Lower prescription drugs cost by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

Lower healthcare costs by reducing premiums by $50 per month, adding vision, dental, and hearing to Medicare benefits, expand home care for older and disabled Americans, and close the Medicaid gap.

The plan will increase tax credits for families with children by $3000 per child over six and $3600 for children under six. For families without children, earned income tax credit will increase from $543 to $1502.

The plan also has a workforce training component, opportunities for clean energy jobs, and will make investments in teachers and schools.

There are two Democratic Senators, Joe Manchin, from West Virginia and Krysten Sinema, from Arizona, and all 50 Republican Senators, who have stymied the passing of Biden’s plan, which will improve the lives of millions of Americans.

President Biden believes that it’s not enough to build back to the way things were before, with the old economy’s structural weaknesses and inequality still in place. But he will build an economy where every American enjoys a fair return for their work and an equal chance to get ahead. 

This is an important piece of legislation that must be passed! Every legislator, democratic or republican, who refuses to support this bill, should be voted out of office. We must stop sending people to D.C. who do not represent our interest.

I encourage you to find out where your Senators and Congressmen stand on this important piece of legislation. 

As my elders used to say, show me how you spend your money, and I’ll tell you what you care about…