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Foreign Aid vs. Military Spending: Trump Address Sparks Debate

In his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, President Trump proposed an historic boost in spending on national defense. (C-Span)
In his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, President Trump proposed an historic boost in spending on national defense. (C-Span)
March 2, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine -- President 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 to the National Governors Association on Monday, and shared more details in a speech to Congress on Tuesday night. Paul Kawika Martin, policy director with the group Massachusetts Peace Action, said one goal of federal spending is to help Americans feel safe - but he said the nation already spends more than half of its discretionary budget on the Pentagon, and the additional money has to come from somewhere.

"So, that's at the cost of other security tools, such as the State Department. I mean, those are the people that negotiate things so you don't have to send troops in in the first place,” Kawika Martin said. "We don't have to spend 'blood and treasure' on expensive wars. We all know how expense the Iraq War was."

Trump has said the money will come from what he called 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 push-back from Congress is almost certain.

Lindsay Koshgarian, research director at the National Priorities Project, said the U.S. spends 21 times more on the military than it does on foreign aid programs - even though, in her view, foreign aid for causes such as 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 said. "And if we don't spend that money, we will need to spend more on the other side fighting wars - and I don't think that's a choice that anyone would want to make."

Koshgarian said she thinks any new military funding should come first from ending wasteful spending within the Pentagon itself. She said 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.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME