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:
- Involve these folks in a matching grant to encourage creativity and innovation in job creation.
- 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.
- Put art, music and sports back in all primary and secondary schools again and pay teachers better.
- Offer free play programs to adults with high stress levels (or a languishing fun side).
- Fund any aspiring entrepreneur with a good business plan, a positive attitude and a fire in the belly for her/his idea.
- Give a grant to musicians, artists and writers who can’t bear the thought of doing anything else for a living.
- Pay every worker a fair wage or salary. (It seems this is still not happening.)
- Create scholarship funds for those who would like to go to college but don’t have the means to.
- 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.
- 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?
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?
Image by Serge Arsenie