My Turn: Trump’s budget hurts Alaskans

The White House has come out with its budget blueprint. If you live in a rural area or are poor, you are, to use Mr. Trump’s words, a loser. Say goodbye to infrastructure development, a healthy environment, or emergency services, all surrendered so Mr. Trump and company can promote war.

 

Introducing the budget, White House Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney said “make no mistake about it, this is a hard-power budget, not a soft-power budget.” This is clearly a budget that limits us to war as the only solution to any international issue, militarizing American foreign policy at the expense of domestic programs. As Mr. Trump likes to say, “We have to start winning wars again.”

What are we Alaskans expected to sacrifice at the altar of war? Let’s take a look at the immediate financial costs. Complete elimination of the following programs, which the White House has said cannot be justified, with Alaska’s share in parentheses:

• Denali Commission ($19,000,000)

• FAA Essential Air Service ($13,000,000)

• Corporation for Public Broadcasting ($8,635,540)

• Americorps (680 volunteers, $4,700,000 in direct federal aid, $2,480,000 in leveraged funding)

• Alaska Sea Grant program ($1,500,000)

• National Endowment for the Humanities ($930,000)

• USDOL Job Corps — Close the Job Corps Center Campus in Palmer, which provides training for about 226 at-risk Alaskan youth annually

• Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery/Pacific Salmon Treaty Program ($8,075,000)

Significant cuts to the following agencies:

• Department of State (28 percent cut; $2,698,889)

• Environmental Protection Agency (31 percent cut; $23,629,000 to ADEC, $25,784,000 to ANTHC)

• NOAA (17 percent cut; $3,342,847) — Reduced mapping, fisheries research, coastal village funding.

• U.S. Coast Guard (14 percent cut) — Reduced search and rescue and boating safety programs.

• FEMA state grants ($667 million cut) — Say goodbye to earthquake and tsunami warnings.

• National Institute of Health (19 percent) — Cuts to rural health programs and medical research.

In order to fund Trump’s war machine, Alaska is being asked to give up clean air, clean water, job training, education, art, commercial fisheries, air travel, and search and rescue. And that’s before adding the social costs of sending our children to war.

We already have the best-funded military in the world, accounting for nearly 40 percent of all money spent globally on defense. We spend more on making war than the next 12 largest military spenders combined, and most of those big spenders are our allies.

Previous periods of sharp defense budget increases — like in 1981 when Ronald Reagan oversaw a comparable increase in spending — actually created less efficiency in military spending as the Department of Defense went on a spending spree. It is much wiser to give the Pentagon less money and force them to set better priorities. When you throw more money at a bureaucracy, waste and inefficiency follows.

The current administration’s reliance on military force for foreign policy is creating a dismal swamp that will strain and overextend our military in the long run, requiring ever-increasing additional military spending. As Marine General Jim Mattis noted in 2013, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.”

“It’s a cost-benefit ratio,” the then-commander of U.S. Central Command said. “The more that we put into the State Department’s diplomacy, hopefully the less we have to put into a military budget as we deal with the outcome of an apparent American withdrawal from the international scene.”

Excessive long-term military spending and costly foreign adventures have been the downfall of many great powers throughout history, including the Soviet Union. The United States’ victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War was in no small part due to our relative overall restraint in military spending and our long-term commitment to non-military tools of foreign policy — a lesson that someone should tweet to Mr. Trump.

 


 

• Craig Wilson lives in Juneau.

 


 

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