The 110 Billion Dollar Reallocation Project

by Belinda Munoz on January 6, 2011

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I was nine years younger when the war in Afghanistan started. I recall the anti-war demonstrations, the outpouring of emotions and the non-stop flow of questions and opinions that filled the city for many days. I remember thinking that if a point in time could be reincarnated, then a tamer, more sober smidgen of the 60s was reborn.

So many of the questions we asked in 2001 remain unanswered today. Today, the U.S. is still at war with Afghanistan to the tune of more than $110 billion a year. And still, who really knows what we’re doing there? Where is Osama bin Laden? Why have we stayed there this long?

Let’s not even get into a political discussion. We knows how that ends up. No matter how you slice it, $110 billion is an obscene amount of money regardless of whether the economy is booming or sluggish.

As someone who has seen organizations produce good work and become sustainable from as little as a $10,000 seed money, I can’t help but wonder how much impact $110 billion could make if divided into programs such as education, job creation, health care, climate change, gender equality, etc. etc. I’d bet all of ten dollars in my jeans pocket that we’d see more, better and faster results that way, wouldn’t you think?

In the spirit of a new Congress now in session, and because this is my birthday month, I’d like to give Congress the benefit of the doubt and make a little wish list of some things I would love, love, love to see them do with that $110 billion this year:

  1. Involve these folks in a matching grant to encourage creativity and innovation in job creation.
  2. Spread that sum around in the form of nutrition and shelter assistance to everyone in the country who is homeless, unemployed or living below the poverty line.
  3. Put art, music and sports back in all primary and secondary schools again and pay teachers better.
  4. Offer free play programs to adults with high stress levels (or a languishing fun side).
  5. Fund any aspiring entrepreneur with a good business plan, a positive attitude and a fire in the belly for her/his idea.
  6. Give a grant to musicians, artists and writers who can’t bear the thought of doing anything else for a living.
  7. Pay every worker a fair wage or salary.  (It seems this is still not happening.)
  8. Create scholarship funds for those who would like to go to college but don’t have the means to.
  9. Provide child care assistance for single mothers, single fathers and stay-at-home parents and extend maternity leave with pay to new parents for at least one month.
  10. Don’t turn anyone away seeking health care.

I could go on but I would be thrilled to see even one of these things happen.   C’mon, 112th Congress.  What do you say?

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What would you like to see Congress do with the $110 billion a year Afghanistan war money?

And let’s not even get started on prison reform and how much it costs to keep one prisoner in jail, okay?
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Image by Serge Arsenie

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David N. January 6, 2011 at 5:54 am

Love this. I’m right with you. Too bad Washington isn’t listening.

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2 Belinda January 6, 2011 at 10:35 am

Thanks, David. Welcome to The Halfway Point.

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3 Meg January 6, 2011 at 6:21 am

The wrong people are in. The right people were supposedly in before this, but they were useless, so they weren’t the right people, either. In our political and economic system, it isn’t likely that enough of the right people will ever be in congress at the same time, which means we’ll never really be in control of the money. It is very sad.

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4 Belinda January 6, 2011 at 10:59 am

Apparently, consensus takes a real long time to build. I do think it makes a big difference to get go-getters in there like Kirsten Gillibrand who worked so hard to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Those who get in with heart in the right place but don’t have the drive to build consensus in order to make some real improvements, well, I guess they do end up being less than useful.

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5 brian January 6, 2011 at 7:51 am

speak it…there is a lot of good we could do with that money but then again its got to be in the right hands…

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6 Belinda January 6, 2011 at 11:06 am

It’s a flawed system, for sure. Still, I hope we’re not still in this war when my son is an adult.

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7 Molly@Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce January 6, 2011 at 8:12 am

Oh you are an optimist! I used to be a political activist and I have to say that I feel disenchanted with how politicians handle themselves. I think I have shifted my focus more on personal change as a way of creating a better society. Happy New Year, Belinda!

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8 Belinda January 6, 2011 at 11:19 am

Molly, I did tag this post as “fantasy” so I’m not sure the word “optimist” applies to me at this moment. I don’t think it has to be an either/or choice between personal and political. There is only so much we can do effectively as citizens far as participating in the political system. What makes me sad is when people don’t even try to get to the polls.

As for those who serve in public office, I still get excited about good candidates every now and then. We have a couple in CA who have garnered national attention and I think that they’ll continue to do good work.

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9 Molly@Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce January 6, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Oops, I missed the fantasy tag. I don’t think it’s an either/or choice. I just find myself feeling disinterested in the political arena these days.

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10 Belinda January 6, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I don’t blame you at all.

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11 ayala January 6, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I love this! I am with you!

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12 Belinda January 6, 2011 at 1:18 pm

It makes me smile to know that you agree, Ayala.

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13 Loni January 6, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Ahhhhh . . . . sounds like a very good dream if they’d wake up and do it, huh?

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14 Belinda January 6, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Yup. I’m dreaming awake that they won’t fall asleep at the switch. Welcome to the Halfway Point, Loni.

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15 Tessa January 6, 2011 at 1:22 pm

AMEN!

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16 Belinda January 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Right? I think we should just take over!

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17 Giulietta Nardone January 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Hey Belinda,

Everything on your list is possible and wonderful. We need a major attitude adjustment. Instead of spending gazillions to destroy on perpetual wars (slogan from 1984 coming to fruition “war is peace,”) why not spend it to create? Our economy doesn’t have to be destructive either, which for the most part it is. Jobs could be created that really make the world more livable for all.

We’ve lost our ability to think critically from being over-schooled, which isn’t the same has getting yourself an education. Reform will never happen.

Like you, let’s give it to folks with good ideas instead of dying industries or industries that drug folks in the name of health.

And if we really want to stop terrorism, let’s create thriving places for these folks instead of blowing their countries to smithereens. They just leave and go somewhere else. How many countries can we invade at the same time?

Once we all see that we’re in this this together, the world can move forward or upwards or outwards, anything but backwards.

Great stuff! G.

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18 Belinda January 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm

I love how you see things, Giulietta. No, our economy doesn’t have to be destructive and I hope we will see more innovation in areas where we could also be good to the planet, to others and to ourselves. We have outgrown so many of our current practices, they are simply no longer sustainable and we’ve really run out of options. We’re really taking more and bigger risks doing the same things we’ve been doing, so let’s innovate! It’s not a bold move; it’s a necessity.

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19 Sara Healy January 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Belinda,

I like your list very much, but I have doubts on this Congress, or any other one. It seems to me that this country is tied to its wars. If it’s not Afghanistan; it’s this interesting “war on terror” that we have which seems to only terrorizes our own citizens.

As terrible as this is to say, I think we feed on disruption in this country. I don’t think we know how to be at peace or what to do with and so, we keep fighting wars. This thought scares me very much.

In answer to your question, I would love to see courses at all school levels that talk about how to understand other cultures, how to be a more peaceful people, how to compassionate about others and how to help, rather than just kill.

Well, that’s my two cents. I do love your passion on this and appreciate this reminder that we have to speak up more loudly if we really want change to happen.

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20 Belinda January 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm

I love your idea, Sara! We really could use a course on how to get along, how to embrace our cultural differences and how to live and breathe compassion. Sign me up!

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21 Indigo January 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Awesome post! I said right from the beginning Afghanistan was another Vietnam. In the end, all the money and loss of life won’t change what happened. A favorite quote of mine is: “An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind.” Mahatma Gandhi

The money would be better spent taking care of our country and those in need, than wasted on a war with no end. (Hugs) Indigo

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22 in the hush of the moon January 7, 2011 at 9:19 am

brilliant, friend. what an important topic. i’d love to see the money go towards increasing micro-businesses and educational opp’s for women. love to you… you have the heart of Christ. xo

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23 Rudri January 11, 2011 at 6:20 am

Great post Belinda. I wish the money could be going to any cause other than the war. I really want to believe in government, but it’s getting harder and harder. No answers here, but appreciate your efforts to call attention to the matter.

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24 Cathy @ All I Want To Say January 11, 2011 at 12:04 pm

#3, #8 and #9 – Mostly education, education, education – all the way.

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25 Tess The Bold Life January 16, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Totally with you and happy birthday month!

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