Surely, we are living in a defining moment in history when Americans are eager to unite around a common purpose. With the attention and support of the whole nation, our political leaders can prove to the world that Americans really are the generous and compassionate people that we claim to be. America can lead the world into an era of international cooperation and global security.
But this will not occur unless our federal spending priorities are in line with our core values of fairness and compassion.
Unfortunately, the mixed-up priorities in President Bush's proposed budget reflect precisely the opposite values: namely, greed and self-interest.
For example, the president proposes to spend $13 billion on foreign aid. This may sound like a lot. But, for perspective, consider that Bush wants to spend $400 billion on the Pentagon, an increase of $46 billion.
You may say, "Well, we need to spend a lot of dough to fight terrorism." But the President's "axis-of-evil" nations (Iran, Iraq, and North Korea) spend $10 billion on their militaries, combined. In fact, America spends more on defense than the next 25 highest military spenders, combined. That's one reason why defense experts, like President Reagan's assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb, say that the war on terrorism does not justify any Pentagon budget increase. In fact, they say, America should cut the defense budget by 15 percent or more.
Meanwhile, as Bush proposes $400 billion for the Pentagon, he wants to spend $30 billion on primary education, $5 billion on the National Science Foundation, $1 billion on food aid and less than half a billion dollars on the Peace Corps.
Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world's population, but we use up 25 percent of the earth's natural resources.
These times call for a re-evaluation of our wasteful lifestyles, and a willingness to sacrifice for the common good. Yet, the President comes up with nothing but business as usual. And the administration's energy policy emphasizes oil and nuclear power, continuing a dependence that's perhaps the greatest threat to our long-term security, both environmentally and militarily.
Terrorism can only be increased by American policies that the rest of the world sees as arrogant, selfish, and based on military and economic global domination. That is a recipe for making enemies, not friends.
So, as we enter an era of great promise for positive change, let's pledge as a nation to stand behind policies and principles that reflect our true American values, and let's lead by example as we reach out to the rest of the world. We should sign the Kyoto Protocol and make serious investments in energy efficiency and clean energy sources as we move toward energy independence. We should shift money from Star Wars and other wasteful Pentagon programs to foreign aid aimed at reducing poverty and suffering. International debt reduction, environmental protection and fair trade should be American priorities in democratically negotiated world trade agreements. And Congress should immediately pass serious campaign finance reform-going beyond what's already been approved-freeing our elected representatives to do what's right for America and the world, not for corporations that pay their campaign bills.
I once saw a video of a civil rights demonstration in the early '60s when a white officer was grabbing an American flag from the hands of a young black boy. The boy was hanging onto that flag for dear life. I feel like that now, as though what I love about my country-democracy, equality, justice, community, free speech-is being wrestled from my hands.
To fly our flag proudly, the American way and our federal budget-must stand for universal human rights, international cooperation, and protecting and sharing nature's gifts equitably among all people. That is the only way to bring lasting peace and security and that's what's worth fighting for.