Summer Lee Leads Call to End Era of “Money for Wars but Not Food for the Poor”

**For Immediate Release**


Summer Lee Leads Call to End Era of “Money for Wars but Not Food for the Poor”

(Washington DC)  — Today, US Congresswoman Summer Lee (D-PA-12) released the following statement urging Democrats in Congress and the Biden administration to heed the lessons of the 20 year war on terror and shift away from weapons-first approach to meet real human needs and move towards peace in international conflicts. 

Lee said, “Post 9/11, our federal government’s decision to fund endless wars cost 4.5 million lives, including over 7,000 US Service Members and displaced tens of millions in a time of deep pain after 3,000 beloved American lives were brutally stolen by Al Qaeda on September 11th. These endless wars cost US taxpayers 8 trillion dollars–dollars that could have and should have gone to ending worldwide hunger by 2030 ($267 billion) and would still have $135 billion to spare–enough to provide universal pre-Kprovide universal family and medical leave, and eradicate student debt in the United States–had Washington made better decisions. In 2007, 57 of the 77 senators who voted to authorize the war in Iraq said that they would not vote the same way with the benefit of hindsight. Now is the time for every one of us in Congress and the Biden administration to exercise that hindsight and use every point of leverage to push allies to do the same. 

“The folks of all religions, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds I represent all want their families, their neighbors, and their world to be safer, healthier, and free-er for all,” Lee continued. “They know that funneling billions more dollars into arms dealers’ pockets won’t keep our children safe from weapons of war at home or across the world. It won’t keep our loved ones safe from toxins in our air and drinking water. They know that lining the pockets of weapons manufacturers won’t help families struggling to afford housing, medicine, or grocery costs. They know defense contractors won’t safeguard Medicare and Social Security or shield our communities against the climate crisis. Unlike the CEOs of Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Amazon who we’re simultaneously working to make pay their fair share in taxes, moms who can’t afford childcare, young folks who can’t pay off their debt, veterans who can’t keep up with housing costs, and children who go to school hungry don’t have million dollar lobbying budgets. So it’s up to us to stand up for their needs. In addition to working to ensure corporate CEOs pay their fair share in taxes. That means recognizing that our country’s security starts with funding humanitarian aid (which typically makes up 1% of federal budget) and diplomacy (which typically makes up only 4%), climate resilient infrastructure, assistance to end food and housing insecurity, and disarm white supremacy that continues to threaten marginalized communities in districts like mine forever scared by the trauma of hate-fueled mass shootings. 

“Now is the time to recognize that the power of life and death, the power of war, the power of prosperity, and the pathway to peace and justice comes through Congress. The decisions that we make now in the face of unimaginable pain and anger from the communities we love and serve will help determine the trajectory of the world going forward. Now is the time to take responsibility seriously even when the political pressure is high and the status quo tells us that it’s ‘normal’ to spend our constituents’ tax dollars on weapons and wars rather than balancing diplomacy, humanitarian aid, and meeting the needs of the people we represent. Now is the time to prioritize peace and the safety and the safety of all children and all people in the world.”

In addition to 4.5 million lives, the post-9/11 war on terror cost American taxpayers over $8.043 trillion. This averages out to $402.95 billion per year. That could have paid for:

The recent national security supplemental requests for overseas conflicts included a total of $74.7 billion for weapons, $52 billion for weapons shipped overseas in addition to the $886 billion FY2024 defense budget. 

Each year, almost half the Pentagon’s base budget goes to defense corporations, with one-third of that amount going to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman. Roughly$452 billion of FY2023’s budget went to defense contractors. Lockheed Martin receives an estimated 90% of its revenue from the federal government. Only $800 million (less than 1%) of FY2023’s $858 billion defense budget was appropriated for Ukraine.

The $52 billion for weapons + $265 billion (30% reduction in the defense budget taken from the share of the budget going to contractors) = $317.8 billion could pay for one year of:

Relevant polling: 

Additional background: 

It would cost $25 billion to end hunger in America. It would cost $92.7 billion to entirely offset inflation price increases of groceries. 

o    Nationwide, 10.2% of households were food insecure.

o    In PA, 9.2 percent of households in Pennsylvania have experienced food insecurity in 2021

o    Over 1,042,615 PA households experienced cuts to SNAP(averaging a loss of $82 per month) due to Congressional action in December of 2022. 

o    In Allegheny county, 161,070 people are food insecure 

  • It would cost $5.2 billion for universal school lunches 
    • 1 in 8 children in America worry about their next meal.
    • In PA, 1 in 8 children go to school hungry
    • Under Governor Shapiro’s new plan, 1.7 million of Pennsylvania’s public school students will receive free breakfast each day this school year. However lunch is not covered.
    • In Allegheny county, 43,000 children face food insecurity 
  • It would cost $62.4 billion to give 1.4 million public school teachers a 50% raise. And it would cost $78.9 billion to provide a dozen new teachers in every public primary school 
    • 17% of teachers require a second job outside the school system to make ends meet. 
    • In PA, the average starting salary for a public school teacher is $47,827
    • PA is experiencing a teacher shortage and new data from the Department of Education shows a 73% decline in the number of teachers entering the profession between 2012-’13 and 2021-’22 
    • An Economic Policy Institute report from 2022 found that the “teacher wage penalty” between education and other similarly educated professions was 23.5% nationally and 15.2% in Pennsylvania.
  • It would cost $97 billion to expand the child tax credit, which sent nearly every American family up to $300 per child per month 
    • The end of the Child Tax Credit saw 15.3 million more people with incomes below the poverty line, and saw the poverty rate for children more than double from 5.2% in 2021 to 12.4% in 2022.
    • 1.3 million Pennsylvania families received $250-300 a month for each child under the age of 17 and would be eligible under an extended child tax credit
    • Due to strong federal investment—especially the expanded Child Tax Credit—child poverty precipitously dropped by almost half between 2020 and 2021, reducing from 9.7 percent to 5.2 percent—the lowest rate on record. Alarmingly, Census data from September 2023 revealed that the child poverty rate more than doubled between 2021 and 2022 to 12.4 percent following the expiration of these targeted investments in workers and families.
  • It would cost $30 billion a year to eradicate student debt
    • Approximately 61% of all college graduates have federal student loan debt. This also contributes to the racial wealth gap–85% of Black college graduates take on student loan debt and take out an average of $39,500 versus their white counterparts who usually take out $29,900; and the average white college graduate has over seven times more wealth than Black college graduates. 
    • In PA, 64% of college graduates have student loan debt, ranking the commonwealth among the highest in the nation for student debt
    •  The average debt load of a Pennsylvania college graduate during the same timeframe was $39,375. In Pennsylvania, 22 percent of college graduates had private student loan debt, with an average total of $42,361.
  • It would cost $70 billion to provide universal childcare
    • On average, Americans pay $16,000 to care for a single infant annually–approximately 21% of the US median income for a family of three in 2021.
    • The average annual cost of infant care in Pennsylvania is $11,842—that’s $987 per month. The average household income is $86,142 which means that the average family needs to spend around 13.7% of their household income support their Child Care.
  • It would cost $35 billion to provide universal Pre-K for a year 
  • It would cost 7.4 billion to end homelessness 
  • It would cost $168 billion annually to provide housing subsidies to all who are eligible
  • It would cost $26 billion to address the repair backlog in public housing nationwide
    • 2.2 million people, including 750,000 children depend on public housing 
    • In PA, 2.5 million residents are impacted by the public housing repair backlog 
    • About 11,600 people are in the queue for low-income housing through the Allegheny County Housing Authority and the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh. For the voucher program, more than 11,300 people are on the city and county waitlists, which have been closed for some time
  • It would cost $48.7 billion to provide every American household with renewable power from offshore wind. 
    • Only 13.1% of the nation’s energy comes from renewable sources. 
    • It would cost $86.7 billion to transition every fossil fuel worker to work on clean energy projects. 
    • On average, Pennsylvania residents spend about $206 per month on electricity. That adds up to $2,472 per year.
    • A new Center for American Progress analysis found that, per acre, Americans are getting significantly more return on investment from offshore wind energy leasing than they are from oil and gas leasing. This is true across the board, from taxpayer revenue to energy production, consumer energy costs, and carbon emissions. The average acre from an offshore wind lease sale brings in nearly 12,500 percent more revenue for taxpayers than 1 acre of oil while providing enough electricity to drive an electric vehicle almost 65 times farther than a gasoline-powered vehicle.
  • It would cost $60 billion to establish savings accounts for every child born in America funded annually by contributions from the federal government – “baby bonds”
    • To offset this cost annually, the legislation would increase the top tax rate on capital gains and dividends to 28 percent (including the 3.8 percent Net Investment Income Tax, or NIIT), eliminate step-up basis of capital gains at death, and increase the estate tax in a number of ways
  • It would cost $2.5 billion to clean rivers and streams in Pittsburgh 
    • In Allegheny County, about 67-percent of streams were impaired.
    • Nearly 28,000 miles of Pennsylvania’s streams are impaired by pollution according to a 2022 State Department of Environmental Protection report. One-third of all Pennsylvania waterways are now considered polluted enough to harm wildlife, recreation or drinking water
    • PA ranks third worst in the country for chemical releases of chemicals linked to reproductive harm. A 2022 report found that more than 5.8 million pounds of toxic substances were dumped into waterways by industrial sites across the Commonwealth in 2020, including chemicals like nitrates from farming and byproducts from petroleum, steel and coal-related industries that are linked to cancer, reproductive harm and developmental issues in children. 
  • It would cost more than $5 billion to reclaim all abandoned mines in Pennsylvania 
    • Pennsylvania still has roughly 5,000 abandoned underground mines, many of which are leaching toxic metals and other hazardous contaminants into our water and dangerous methane into our air—contributing to local environmental issues and the overall climate crisis
    • Pennsylvania accounts for one-third of the country’s AML problem areas in 43 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
    • Acid mine drainage through abandoned mines is the number one water pollution problem for our state–impacting than 7,000 Pennsylvania streams with acid mine drainage and more than 5,500 miles with impaired water quality due to runoff from abandoned mines
  • It would cost $13 billion to ensure access to affordable, stable housing for 450,000 low income-veterans nationwide 
    • On a single night in January 2020, 37,252 veterans were experiencing homelessness, and 7.9 percent of those experiencing homelessness were veterans, 12.9 percent of whom report income at or below 150 % of the poverty line, 9.2 % receive public assistance, and half of veterans between 25 – 54 had less than $3,000 to $4,000 in their bank accounts.
    • In Pennsylvania, U.S. military veterans are estimated to make up a large portion – 11 percent – of homeless adults

In a July Oversight Hearing on Defense Spending, Lee questioned DoD’s Director of Contracting on its exorbitant spending on everything from the F-35 program to Viagra in the NDAA the expense of school meals, repairs to roads and bridges, and housing for the most vulnerable. 

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