$110 billion dollars is slated for the Iraq war over the next fiscal year. What could we do with $2 billion dollars a week?
We could start by restoring the cuts in education made by the Republican Congress over the last six years. The much-heralded No Child Left Behind Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2002, is an unfunded mandate. States are cash-strapped because of the weakened economy. They often don’t have the dollars to pay their teachers decently, to keep classrooms from becoming crowded, and to keep schools from being closed. They do not have the money to pay for additional testing, more and better teachers, summer school, after-school classes and tutoring — the mandates of No Child Left Behind. If the states do not comply with the law because they cannot afford to, they run the risk of losing Federal dollars.
We could return funding to the beleaguered Head Start Program, which helps children from disadvantaged homes get an equal footing in schools, and which lessens the burdens on our teachers when children come to their classrooms adequately prepared to start at grade level. And at the other end of the spectrum, Congress could restore the cuts made to lending programs so that all children have an opportunity to go to college, not just the wealthy. Only by making K-12 and post secondary education available to all children, regardless of socio-economic standing, will we break the cycle of poverty. Education benefits more than just the individual. It is an investment in this country’s economic growth and development.
We could put billions back into Medicaid, billions in cuts which make it harder for elderly parents in middle class families to qualify for nursing homes and harder for hospitals and rehabilitation centers to provide adequate care. We could stop subsidizing the pharmaceutical, insurance companies, and HMOs and instead focus on making sure all Americans have health insurance and access to prescription medication at reasonable costs. A recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that the number of people without health insurance is increasing. Workers are paying more for their insurance. Life expectancies and health disparities are linked to the ability to access and afford appropriate healthcare services.
Our pension system is in crisis. In 2005, the US House of Representatives voted to approve $6.2 billion in increased costs to employers’ pension insurance premiums at a time when companies need little incentive to outsource jobs overseas, and at a time when employees are losing their pensions after corporations discharge their obligations through bankruptcies.
What else could we do with $2 billion a week? Maybe we could restore the cuts made to child support collection programs so that single parents are not forced into poverty or onto public assistance. Perhaps Congress could pass tax cuts that favor the poor and the middle class instead of the wealthy.
But these are rhetorical questions. For the truth of the matter is that, so long as we keep the status quo in Washington, $2 billion a week will continue to be spent on the morass in Iraq. While we “stay the course