May 10, 2017

Priorities of Local Citizens Clash With U.S. Government Expenditures

PENNY POLL: Participants’ priorities on spending for military, education, health care, environment, and housing clashed with the actual federal budget in an informal poll conducted by the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action, which is urging taxpayers to contact their representatives in Washington.

Participants in a “penny poll” last week at Communiversity voted for 72 percent of their tax dollars to go into education, health care and the environment, with just 13 percent to the military. In fact 54 percent of the discretionary budget for Congress for FY 2016 was allocated for military spending, and President Trump recently proposed a $54 billion increase for the armed forces.

“The disconnect is striking,” said the Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA), which conducted the poll. “When people are allowed to express their priorities, they don’t mesh with the federal government.”

Each of the 372 individuals who came to the CFPA table at Communiversity was invited to participate, and was then given ten pennies to distribute among five tubes representing categories of federal spending: education, environment, health care, housing, and military. Education was the top priority for participants with 1,081 pennies, 29 percent; followed by health care, 24 percent; environment, 23 percent; military, 13 percent; and housing, 11 percent.

Participants were then handed a fact sheet on the actual discretionary budget for FY 2016, what Congress chose to allocate as distinct from entitlement funding, with education at 6 percent, health care 5 percent, environment 4 percent, and housing 6 percent.

“We say, ‘here’s how your tax dollars are spent,’” Mr. Moore explained. “‘If you disagree, you should let your representatives know.’ This has to change. The people in Congress have to feel the fire at their feet to know that those are not the priorities that the people want.”

Mr. Moore noted that in conducting their penny poll over the past 20 years, they have found remarkable consistency from Princeton to West Windsor to Trenton to Philadelphia. “The striking thing is the results are nearly the same. Military spending priorities are near the bottom and health, education, and environment are near the top. The military is way out of line with what people want. The next eight countries in the world combined spend less than the United States on military.”

Mr. Moore encouraged taxpayers to contact their U.S. Representatives and Senators via the Capitol switchboard (202) 224-3121 to urge them to support less money for military spending and more for peaceful budget priorities.

In further action, the CFPA is working to oppose H.R. 38/S.446, which, if passed, would allow people with a permit from another state to bring concealed handguns into New Jersey. It would also allow handguns in school zones and federal lands open to the public. The CFPA sent an e-alert two weeks ago to about 3,700 supporters, urging them to contact elected officials to urge opposition to the bill.