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"Listening Project" Reveals Deep Concerns about Federal Budget

PHOTO: Irene Caudillo, president of El Centro Inc,, is one of dozens of community leaders who have shared their thoughts on the federal budget through the Move The Money Listening Project led by the American Friends Service Committee. Photo courtesy of AFSC.
PHOTO: Irene Caudillo, president of El Centro Inc,, is one of dozens of community leaders who have shared their thoughts on the federal budget through the Move The Money Listening Project led by the American Friends Service Committee. Photo courtesy of AFSC.
April 15, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - As Missourians join the nation in paying their share to the government on this Tax Day, one group says it's time to take a hard look at exactly what Uncle Sam is doing with that money.

For the past year, Mary Hladky has met with dozens of Kansas City-area leaders as part of the American Friends Service Committee's Listening Project. It's an effort to find out what those who work and serve local communities think of the way their federal tax dollars are being spent.

Across the board, she said, from those who work in education to housing, hunger, health care and transportation, local leaders say their priorities are not lining up with what they see in the federal budget.

"As a nation," she said, "many people said we spend so much more after the fact to fix a problem instead of prevention that would cost so much less."

According to the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, in 2014 the federal government allocated more than $615 billion, or 55 percent of its discretionary budget, to military spending.

While the amount of military spending often is said to be a necessary part of national security, Hdlaky said she thinks it's time to redefine what that term means.

"People need the security of shelter, food, health care and an education," she said, "and we're just kind of forgetting all that, because we're totally focused on spending so much money on the military."

Among the more surprising things Hdlaky said she and the other members of the Listening Project heard is that life expectancy in some parts of Kansas City is 12 years less than in neighboring ZIP codes. She said community leaders feel those disparities are very telling.

"There are two different economies: the economy of the rich and the economy of the poor," she said. "It's prosperity and budget-cutting - helping one, and killing the other."

A "Move the Money" forum will take place Sunday at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Kansas City.

More information is online at afsc.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO