fresh voices from the front lines of change







Jo Comerford, executive director of National Priorities Project, will speak on “War Costs: The Afghanistan War and the Price of U.S. Militarism” at the Oct. 3-5 Take Back at American Dream conference.

Right now our elected officials are trying to balance the federal budget on the backs of the most marginalized Americans.

This crusade to drag government into the bathroom and drown it will, over time, result in the erosion or near eradication of programs that safeguard our collective well-being. Four years into an economic crisis, the majority of our states remain in deficit and local communities are far beyond cutting fat. We’re now sawing at bone.

This year, fewer federal dollars will flow into my home state of Massachusetts at a time when the Commonwealth budget is already short $1.8 billion. Deeper cuts to home heating aid, public health, elder services and education are inevitable – and loom even as new census data tell us that 41 percent of kids in Holyoke, Mass., now live below the poverty line.

As it turns out, over the last decade, Holyoke taxpayers have paid $45.9 million in federal income taxes for the U.S. war in Afghanistan – $12.2 million for FY2011 alone. Holyoke’s contribution to the Afghanistan war just this year would have fully funded Head Start places for 1,380 of Holyoke’s kids.

To help our constituents grapple with the spending and revenue decisions under debate in Washington, National Priorities Project, USAction and RootsAction have launched Build A Better Budget, an easy-to-use on-line tool that lets users to build their own federal budgets.

The tool bases spending and revenue options on the current budget and the budget blueprints of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Users are invited to send their completed budgets to Congress.

Tomorrow is – technically – the beginning of the federal Fiscal Year 2012. I say “technically” because like last year, October 1st will come and go without a federal budget. With routine actions like releasing disaster relief funds stymied by contentious budget debates, it’s no surprise that Congress couldn’t bring the annual budget process to a timely close.

No surprise, but within the context of a protracted economic crisis, two wars and Congressional lock down, it’s absolutely a call to action.

All voices are needed. Build your better budget today.

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