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The Next Debate: Foreign Aid vs. Military Spending

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017   

ST. PAUL, Minn. – President Donald Trump's call to increase military spending by $54 billion likely means cuts will be made to some politically-sensitive programs, from education and the environment, to science and fighting poverty. Trump first announced his plans Monday to the National Governors Association and shared more details in a speech to Congress last night.

Lindsay Koshgarian, the research director of the National Priorities Project, says it's unclear where the hike in defense funding would come from. She says this is the time for citizens to speak up, noting that cuts would have a trickle-down effect on states, cities and counties.

"There are a lot of reasons for members of Congress to care about this," she said. "The good news is that Congress actually has quite a large say in what the final budget looks like. So, the right thing to do is to contact your member of Congress and let them know what your concerns are."

President Trump has said the money will come from, in his words, a "revved-up economy." He has also said it's time for America to "start winning wars again." But the budget proposal has a long way to go, and some pushback from Congress is almost certain.

The U.S. spends 21 times more on the military than it does on foreign-aid programs, although in Koshgarian's view, foreign aid for causes like fighting hunger and disease does more to increase stability around the world.

"We actually get a lot in return for that money, in the form of added security for our country," she explained. "And if we don't spend that money, we will need to spend money on the other side fighting wars - and I don't think that's a choice that anyone would want to make."

Koshgarian thinks any new military funding should come first from ending wasteful spending within the Pentagon itself. She adds programs that make people's lives better shouldn't be raided when some believe the Pentagon isn't doing its fair share to combat waste.


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