Money that could have been used to create infrastructure, jobs and a better educated and healthier America went, instead, to the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us against. Hundreds of billions of dollars that should have gone to meet the needs of the American people disappeared in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2016, 57% of the federal budget was spent on the Department of Defense, wars and weapons programs, according to the American Friends Service Committee; 6% was spent on education.

A federal report from 2011 shows $60 billion lost to war zone contractor waste and fraud alone. Disabled and traumatized veterans return home and don’t get the support or treatment they need. Homelessness and opioid addiction is the result. “About 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans. Roughly 45% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4% and 3.4% of the U.S. veteran population, respectively,” — National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

The prison-industrial complex, where corporations run prisons for profit and poor people and people of color are the main “clients” makes it even harder for those on the margins to maintain homes and get jobs. The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. The self-serving actions of bankers and government officials during the housing crisis complete the picture of the looting of America’s tax revenues and the eviction of people from their homes.

According to Forbes magazine “The Special Inspector General for the Toxic Assets Recovery Program (TARP) summary of the bailout says that the total commitment of government is $16.8 trillion dollars with $4.6 trillion already paid out.” That was in 2016. The banks got the money and have grown even larger but the regular wage earner can’t get financing for a home purchase. With easier credit after 2008, people would be in houses now, not out on the street. The taxpayer’s money bailed out the big banks. Nobody could get a home loan while the banks bought back their stock, bought other banks, and bought the houses they foreclosed on. Does anyone think that might have something to do with the current housing crisis?

The federal minimum wage is $7.50 an hour. California’s minimum wage is $10.50 an hour. “Experts estimate that still buys only about half of what a minimum wage did in 1980,” — San Francisco Chronicle.

The leading cause of bankruptcy is medical expenses. Single payer universal health care would cost less and provide better care than a system that is drowning in paperwork and regulation. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq marked the beginning of the privatization of military services and supplies. The contract to build Guantanamo went to Halliburton (Dick Cheney’s old company.) An unintended irony of the so-called war on terror: the inmates of Guantanamo get better medical services than most Americans, as Michael Moore shows in his film, “Sicko.”

“U.S. spending on the Afghanistan nation-building project over the last dozen years now exceeds $104 billion, surpassing the $103.4 billion current-dollar value of Marshall Plan expenditures, which helped rebuild European nations after World War II”(“U.S. aid to Afghanistan exceeds Marshall Plan in costs” San Francisco Chronicle, August 2014). Imagine if $104 billion had been invested in preschools, education, job training, and social services in the US? Helping individual homeless people is important, but if you really want to change people’s lives for the better, take a look at where our tax dollars are going and imagine where they could be going.


Lives in San Francisco; graduate of SFSU.

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