Allow defense cuts

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Missing from the "fiscal cliff" discussions is any mention of the Pentagon budget. It accounts for half of the funds that Congress appropriates every year, which makes it a good place to look for spending cuts, especially given that the Pentagon loses, wastes or misspends $102 billion a year -- more than the budgets of the State, Interior, Commerce and Justice departments combined.

Military spending doubled from 2001 to 2011, thanks to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iraq war is over and U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is winding down, and it's time to collect a peace dividend. The Budget Control Act, which brought us the fiscal cliff, mandates cuts close to $500 billion in Pentagon spending over the next 10 years. That's a good start, but those cuts don't even reduce the overall military budget; they merely slow its rate of increase.

The United States spends more than the next 17 countries combined on our military, yet according to the CIA World Factbook, it ranks 50th in infant mortality, behind Belarus and Cuba. Congress -- including Sen. Bob Casey, Sen. Pat Toomey and Pennsylvania's U.S. House members -- should not accept any deficit reduction deal that would increase poverty or income inequality. We hear a lot about asking all segments of society to pay their fair share. It's time for the Pentagon to do just that.

KATHY STACKHOUSE
Squirrel Hill


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