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Monday, November 17, 2008

Hope and Hard Work

Between the Phillies winning the World Series and Barack Obama winning the presidency, Philadelphians have been walking around in a mild euphoria. Strangers smile on the street. Supermarket cashiers seem happy. Or at least they did last week. This week the hard realities of the world are creeping back into our consciousness. The Inquirer ran a story Saturday about racist incidents on college campuses since the election, and Mayor Michael Nutter has announced wide-ranging budget cuts that will hit firehouses, libraries, city pools, and services like snow plowing and leaf collection.

Of course most people are focusing on the things that will affect their neighborhood (Our library is safe, but our narrow streets won’t be if they’re not plowed.). But last night I received an email that put all this in a bigger perspective. It was written by Z for Philly Code Pink:
Folks I kid you not. I was just doing some calculations about the cost of the war to Philadelphia residents compared to the city’s projected deficit. Even though I have been doing this kind of calculation for almost 6 years, this time (as happens so often) the result strains my credulity. Please look at this logic and let me know if you see someway I figured this wrong. Cause if I’m right, I don’t know what to do with myself!

1. According to the National Priorities Project, Philadelphia’s share of the total cost of war in Iraq is, in round figures, $2, 100,000,000.

2. The war has been going on since 3/03. I count this to be 68 months of war.

3. I divided $2,100,000,000 by 68 and got ($30,882,353) $31,000,000 per month as the monthly cost of the war in Iraq to Philadelphians.

4. According to the city of Philadelphia Budget Office, the project deficit to the city budget, projected over 5 years is $850,000,000.

5. I divided this by 60 months (5 years) and got ($14,166,667) in round figures, $14,200,000.

6. This leaves me with the comparison.
$31,000,000 Monthly cost to Phila for the war
$14,200,000 Monthly city budget deficit

7. Thus what we pay for the war each month is 2.18 times what we need to cover our budget deficit.

I’m sure some people would question the logic of this equation. After all, city taxes and federal taxes are separate, and we’re just charging the war to future generations anyway. It’s debt, not real money. But as many Americans are discovering, debt is real money, and what we’re willing to run up a tab for says something about our values. Personally, I value books over bombs.

This is all just a reminder that despite my hopes for the Obama administration, I cannot give up my responsibility to continue telling my elected officials what I value. If we want our troops (and money) out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to make that known. While I celebrate the barrier that has been broken, I have to point out what I have always suspected—that the United States would be more willing to elect a black (or biracial) man president before electing a pacifist. Maybe in some future election we will have a pacifist candidate with Obama’s oratory and political skills to test my hypothesis, but for the time being, we must continue to articulate the change we want to see.


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