September Is America's Time To Decide On Priorities



America faces a clear choice this month. President Bush will insist that Congress continue the war in Iraq and demand another $50 billion for the occupation. That's on top of $147 billion already pending for Iraq and Afghanistan this year. And that's on top of the $460 billion annual military budget.

The U.S. will spend about as much as the rest of the world combined on its military this year.

Simultaneously, the president vows to veto any spending on domestic programs that exceed his budget. He's threatened to veto any increases for children's health care; for college loans and scholarships; for public schools; for renewable energy; for basic infrastructure.

The difference between the president's budget and that of Congress is about $20 billion. The president says that's a lot of money, over "$1,300 in higher spending every second of every minute of every hour." His request for Iraq this year is about eight times greater, or $10,400 every second of every hour, every day this year.

Gen. Petraeus has said from the beginning that, if all goes well, it'll take 10 to 20 years to pacify Iraq and create a functioning democracy there. That would raise the cost of Iraq to more than $2 trillion, with more than 6,000 American lives likely to be lost.

Yet our continuing commitment to police the world has domestic consequences.

A bridge falls in Minneapolis.

An aged steam valve breaks and terrorizes Manhattan.

The levees are still not rebuilt to the needed strength in New Orleans.

College is getting priced out of reach of working families.

Our schools grow older, more crowded, more in need of repair.

Our transportation system -- from airports to roads to subways -- cries out for investment.

Our broadband system is the slowest in the industrial world.

The choice this month isn't really about Iraq; it's about the United States.

Like Rome and Britain and the USSR before us, we face a choice: empire or republic? We can police the streets of Baghdad, patrol the seas, guard the borders of Korea and Bosnia, build a new generation of more deadly nuclear and space weaponry.

Or, we can invest here at home in areas vital to our social and economic health.

What do you think our priority should be?

Should we be the globocop or the city on the hill?

We can't be both.

Larry Brophy

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