National Priorities Project has a great website that illustrates how your money is spent by the federal government on a state by state average. (note: this doesn’t mean state tax dollars are being spent, just the average breakdown for federal taxes paid by residents of a certain state.)

The biggest finding? For every $42 we spend on the military, we spend $4.40 on education. Not only that, the debt we pay on the money we borrow to spend on the military makes up nearly 1/4th of the $42, or $10.

So the reality is where we’re spending more than 2 times on military debt than we do on our education system.

Something is wrong here folks.

Here’s the breakdown from Missouri (pdf), my home state:

The median income family in Missouri paid $1,689 in federal income taxes in 2007. Here is how that money was spent:

  1. Military: $713
  2. Health: $373
  3. Interest on Non-military Debt: $173
  4. Anti-Poverty Programs: $146
  5. Education, Training & Social Services: $74
  6. Government & Law Enforcement: $66
  7. Housing & Community Development: $56
  8. Environment, Energy & Science: $45
  9. Transportation, Commerce & Agriculture: $26
  10. International Affairs: $17

And here’s that info presented for our more visual readers…

I want it to be very clear that I think national defense is important and it needs a healthy budget, but, again, it’s nuts that the debt on our military spending is more than 2 times the amount we spend on education.

I guess the question then is why aren’t we worried that our people aren’t as advanced as our weapons systems? And yes, I’m talking about equivalence here…don’t go too far down the rabbit hole on dissecting this comparison please.

Listen, there’s no doubt we’ve been steadily slipping behind in education when compared with the rest of the world, and it’s obvious that even though people say throwing money at the problem won’t solve it, the money we’re currently spending on it just isn’t enough. Teachers are woefully underpaid and if we expect our kids to do better in school just because they have to study for NCLB tests, we’re fooling ourselves. Unfunded mandates haven’t worked, and giving parents choices to use vouchers won’t come anywhere close to fixing systemic problems.

So what I’m advocating is we tighten our belts on the military spending and try to get closer to parity on some of these categories…especially education. We have the best military in the world, so why not refocus on education and make sure we have the best people in the world too? We can’t let globalization and outsourcing lull us into a false sense of security that hiring the best and brightest from around the world will be the way we continue to be tops in innovation. There are still very real barriers to the “global workplace” and for that reason alone we should make sure our people get more attention and money directed at them.

It’s only fair.

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