Day of reckoning

April 15, tax day, is as close as Americans come to an annual day of reckoning. It’s when we take stock, often painfully, of the cost of the governmental services we use. So it’s appropriate at this time that we ask: Where does our money go?

Would it surprise you to know that 42.2 percent of every federal tax dollar last year went to military spending? According to the National Priorities Project, a nonprofit research organization that examines the local impact of federal spending policies, this figure includes 28.7 percent for current military and war spending (in Iraq and Afghanistan), 10 percent for interest on military debt and 3.5 percent for veterans’ benefits.

In contrast, we spent just 8.7 percent to combat poverty; 4.4 percent on education, training and social services, and 2.6 percent on the environment, energy and science programs.

The United States now operates more than 750 overseas military installations and spends more on its military than all the other countries of the world combined. Meanwhile, at home the nation’s infrastructure is falling apart, the feds are cutting allocations to the states, the states and cities are struggling with budget deficits, schools are crumbling and unemployment is rising.

It’s important that America maintain a leadership role in the world community. But we clearly have gone from the enlightened self-defense that sees military action as a last resort to a kind of hubristic imperialism that posits the use of power wherever and whenever we wish.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are demonstrating, however, there are limits to our power. And the weak economy at home and declining dollar overseas show what happens when we borrow billions of dollars from other countries to pay for excessive weapons systems and unnecessary wars.

And why are we borrowing those dollars? Because the Bush administration cut the taxes of the richest Americans, even while it was taking us to war in Iraq. It’s worth remembering this April 15 that John McCain wants to make those tax cuts permanent and continue the war indefinitely.