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24 Questions for Advent: Six

Why should millions be spent daily on the war and yet there's not a penny available for medical services, artists, or for poor people? - Anne Frank

The United States’ military expenditures are roughly the size of the next seven largest military budgets around the world, combined. U.S. military spending dwarfs the budget of the #2 country – China. For every dollar China spends on its military, the U.S. spends $2.77.

That military budget represents about 53 cents of every discretionary dollar in the federal budget – and it’s one of the biggest reasons that people so often throw up their hands and shake their heads when they think about funding innovative ways to end poverty. They don’t need to throw up their hands, though. The politicians and pundits should just start listening to children.

Reverend William Barber and Phyllis Bennis

Jewish Anne Frank hid in 1942 from the Nazis during the occupation of the Netherlands. Two years later she was discovered. In 1945 she died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. On her thirteenth birthday, just before they went into hiding, Anne was presented with a diary. During the two years in hiding, Anne wrote about events in the Secret Annex, but also about her feelings and thoughts. The question above is one of them, and it’s a key question for society, particularly in a country like ours that is abundant with wealth.

The debate between capitalism and socialism in America, which has gone on for a century, often misses basic common sense. We get locked into our ideologies and fears, believing that those who disagree with us will lead us to dangerous extremes. In doing so, we miss opportunities to simply get things done.

In my humble opinion, good quality public education and healthcare should be a right, not a privilege. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still have private schools or private insurance. Those with the means to choose such can always do so. But why on earth can’t a country as blessed as the United States provide such basic needs to its children? The argument that “we can’t afford it” is ridiculous----not only are there tons of funds in needless military spending that can be reallocated---but seriously, how can we afford not to?

It benefits everyone to have a society of healthy, educated children. Everyone would agree. The arguments come down to who should provide it. Capitalists believe the private sector is better than government at maintaining a level playing field; socialists believe there cannot be a level playing field without government policies to enforce it. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, we must recognize that we have to work together to get to real solutions that benefit our children.

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