Sunday is Mother's Day, I am thinking about mothers and families all over our country. The past few years have not been easy. Families struggled to make ends meet. Here in Kentucky, we had to find ways to continue providing vital services amid harsh budget cuts. It has been complicated. Funding for education, law enforcement and seniors' services have all been cut.
As someone known for championing measures to fight violence against women, I'm particularly concerned about the way budget cuts will make lives more difficult for women and children who need help securing a safer and more hopeful future.
In Washington, D.C., Congress is trying to put together a budget for next year. I'm watching this process closely, as our state counts on funding from the federal government to implement crucial programs. The budget process will affect each and every one of my constituents.
The budget recently passed by House Republicans will slash programs used disproportionately by women and families. In addition to the Medicare and Medicaid cuts you may have heard about, it cuts funding for programs like food stamps, child care, Head Start, job training, Pell Grants and housing and energy assistance. Meanwhile, it allows defense spending to continue to increase.
This means that, while we've cut spending for domestic programs that support families, communities and businesses, Pentagon spending continues to grow. Each year, Congress appropriates more than half of discretionary spending to the Department of Defense, wars and nuclear weapons. Even without deficit reduction pressure, this overspending takes dollars away from needed domestic priorities that strengthen our economy and ensure that America can compete in the world marketplace.
General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it best: "It makes no sense at all for us as a nation to have an extraordinarily capable military instrument of power if we are economically disadvantaged around the world."
Too many tax dollars going into this enormous Pentagon budget are wasted on outdated security strategy. Over the next decade, we are slated to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a nuclear weapons arsenal built for the Cold War era. These weapons are simply irrelevant to 21st century threats and do not support our troops on current battlefields.
In the past decade we have spent billions on war. Afghanistan is the longest war in our nation's history, we spent nine years in Iraq and now some seem prepared to go to war in Iran. Whether measured merely in direct financial cost, or in the broader and more profound cost of lives lost and damaged, we cannot afford to be a nation perpetually at war.
I hope we can all agree that the Pentagon, which swallows up such a large percentage of our budget, must be at least as carefully scrutinized for waste as other government programs. At the moment, the Pentagon cannot even pass an audit to show how it spends our tax dollars.
Some supporters of the Pentagon and its contractors tout excessive Pentagon spending as a jobs program. Sensible national security posts are appropriate, and no member of Congress can ignore the effect of policy decisions on jobs. Nonetheless, economists have shown that federal investments in non-military sectors, like education, health care and clean energy, create more jobs than military spending. It makes more sense to invest federal dollars in sectors that will create productive jobs and help our economy grow for years to come.
We can make sensible reductions to Pentagon spending and invest in programs that will help build a vibrant economy for generations to come. This Mother's Day, let's honor hard-working women and mothers around the nation by calling on Congress to pass a budget that supports women and families and puts us back on the path to a sustainable economic recovery.