Security: A Dialogue
Libby and Freeman face each other across their kitchen table. Their checkbook is open, the coffee is cold. It’s time again for one of those conversations. Times are tight; they’re both grateful to have jobs, but they’ve both had their hours cut back and their income is just not stretching far enough.
Libby: We just have to cut back our spending, dear. We should take a hard look at everything we spend money on and decide what we actually need. secure house Freeman: I agree. The kids have been getting new books for school every year. They never finished reading last year’s books – why do they need new ones? And they get new clothes every year…
Libby: Honey, they grow every year. They need new clothes and shoes – sometimes twice a year.
Freeman: My point exactly. Why do we feed them so much? Is that really necessary?
Libby: Freeman, honey. We have to put everything on the table. Let’s talk about our security systems. We have multiple kinds of locks on every door and window, cameras panning all sides of the house (which you watch remotely through the Internet), and locks on the tool shed when you don’t even have those old tools any more. And we have contracts with two security companies to watch over our home.
Freeman: You never know when one of those companies might disappear. This way we always have backup. You can’t be too careful.
Libby: I think you can be too careful. The double fencing around the yard, with guard dogs growling at passers-by, seems to cut us off from the neighbors. It all makes us seem unfriendly somehow. Why, the neighbors are all joining together in a neighborhood watch program, but you didn’t want to join up. Surely that might have helped us be more secure.
Freeman: If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself. Can’t depend on someone else for anything so critical as your security.
Libby: Freeman, let’s look at the budget. We’re spending more than half of our take-home pay on the security hardware and systems.
Freeman: Oh, don’t worry about that, Libby. I’m using a special credit card for those purchases. We don’t ever have to pay it back.
Libby stares Freeman in the eyes.
Freeman: Well, maybe someday we will.
Libby: Your special credit card changes our whole debt picture. We can’t borrow for a car to replace our clunker because we’re too deeply in debt. At this rate, we’ll probably have to pay that debt back from our retirement income. We have to be more sensible about our spending.
I’m not suggesting that we throw the doors wide open, but surely just two locks on every door and window and one security company should be more than enough to keep us secure. The money we would save would allow us to outfit the children for school, fix the car, and pay for new glasses and prescriptions for all of us. We could even pay off some of our debts, and save for our retirement.
Freeman: OK, I take your point. I was going to upgrade the locks on the empty tool shed, but I’ll forego that. Instead, I’ll install the latest in camera equipment, because that’s really a more effective technology anyway.
So goes the saga of military spending. When members of Congress sit down at the conference table to consider the nation’s checkbook, they rarely consider cutting Pentagon spending. The “austerity measures” proposed by the Pentagon seldom include real reductions in the redundant layers of weapons and security services maintained by the nation’s trillion dollar military budget (read more in "Trimming the Pentagon Budget"). Needs that arise in other parts of the budget – child nutrition, unemployment insurance, housing assistance, and job creation – don’t have the “special credit card” that Congress provides for military spending. Congress requires all these other needs to fit within a tighter budget, while it continues to authorize more Pentagon spending.
It’s time to re-think military spending, starting with insisting on transparency and efficiency, and then examining alternate ways to meet global security needs and re-evaluating the mission of the U.S. military in the world.
FCNL’s Our Nation’s Checkbook campaign, which urges members of Congress to shift money from the Pentagon to diplomacy, green jobs, and human needs, is doing just that. In Michigan, more than 230 local elected officials, religious leaders, community groups, and individuals asked their senator to hold hearings on this issue in the Senate Budget Committee. In Iowa, our organizer personally delivered a letter from nearly 100 organizations and individuals to their senator (see box below). In Pennsylvania, community leaders have endorsed a letter to their representative and have met with her personally. Find out what’s happening in your state and how you can get involved.