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Reflections this Independence Day


Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton
June 27, 2012

I love the Fourth of July. I always participate in parades alongside local and federal officials and spend my evening with family and friends. As I celebrate with fireworks, picnics and parades, I feel great pride for the United States and Michigan. This special holiday is a day on which I celebrate our nation's independence; it is also an opportunity to renew my commitment to work together with other state and national leaders to strengthen our nation’s security and prosperity.

As we head into election season, there’s serious work to be done on the federal budget in Washington, and decisions made will impact us here in Michigan. If enacted, looming budget cuts will have dire consequences for our state. Though there are signs that we are recovering from the recession, times are still incredibly tough. In Michigan, we have already been forced to cut per pupil education funding and taxpayers saw a reduction in our state's Earned Income and Homestead Property Tax Credits, all while additional limits were placed on unemployment benefits. This is why Michigan cannot afford the devastating cuts to critical programs, including education, health care, and transportation that would come with the proposed federal budget.

I find it frustrating that the Pentagon is the one category of spending that is not slated for cuts under the federal budget plan. In early May, the House approved $8 billion more in Pentagon spending than they agreed to in last summer’s Budget Control Act. They completely ignored the limits set in last year’s deficit reduction law. How will we pay for that? With further cuts to other programs. On top of that, some are now trying to exempt the Pentagon from automatic sequestration cuts slated to take effect in January 2013. This would result in even deeper cuts to investments like education, national parks, clean water programs, medical and scientific research and clean energy.

I am grateful for our nation’s security and for all the sacrifices made to keep us safe. However, the Pentagon’s budget has been rising steeply since 2001. Pentagon spending takes up more than half of all the discretionary spending that Congress votes on each year. I think we can afford to make some sensible cuts to the Pentagon without sacrificing our security.

There is agreement across the political spectrum that what will make America most secure is jobs. Some defense industry supporters have argued that that cutting excessive Pentagon spending means losing good jobs. The reality is that investing our tax dollars in non-Pentagon sectors would actually create more jobs. Imagine how many jobs could be created with $1 billion of federal spending on education, healthcare, mass transit and weatherization.

The time has come to take a hard long look at Pentagon spending and pinpoint how it can be safely cut. True security hinges on the youth of our nation being healthy, well-educated and poised for the jobs of tomorrow. Excessive military spending distracts from what should be our true focus: supporting job creation and protecting our natural resources.

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, let’s make sure that we invest our dollars wisely for a safe and prosperous future.

Ellen Cogen Lipton is a State Representative in Michigan and an active member of the Women Legislators’ Lobby – a program of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND).