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Tomgram: Jo Comerford, Your Taxes and War
From TomDispatch tonight: How the mayor of one hard-hit, rust-belt city is confronting the American urban financial squeeze, the lack of funds for social services, and the outsized sums we're spending on our wars; a powerful piece as April 15th, tax day, approaches -- Jo Comerford, "Tax Day and America's Wars" (Timothy MacBain's latest TomCast audio interview in which Comerford discusses military spending and the federal budget can be found here.)
Here's how Jo Comerford, executive director of the National Priorities Project and TomDispatch regular, begins her remarkable new post on an American mayor who is taking a groundbreaking step that should be in the news: "Matt Ryan, the mayor of Binghamton, New York, is sick and tired of watching people in local communities 'squabble over crumbs,' as he puts it, while so much local money pours into the Pentagon’s coffers and into America’s wars. He’s so sick and tired of it, in fact, that, urged on by local residents, he’s decided to do something about it. He’s planning to be the first mayor in the United States to decorate the façade of City Hall with a large, digital 'cost of war' counter, funded entirely by private contributions."
This will be an American urban first for a mayor facing what he calls our "skewed national priorities." In her piece, Comerford carefully breaks down just what the $138.6 million that Binghamton’s taxpayers are out of pocket since 2001 for the Iraq and Afghan wars would mean to a city with a yearly budget of only $81 million, a city where taxes are going up and jobs are being cut:
"For the same amount of money, Ryan could fund the Binghamton city library for the next 60 years, or pay for a four-year education for 95% of the incoming freshman class at the State University of New York at Binghamton, or offer four years of quality health coverage for everyone in Binghamton 19 or younger, or secure renewable electricity for every home in the city for the next 11 years. If he was feeling really flush, he could fully fund one-third of New York State's Head Start slots for one year. For the same sum, Ryan could also authorize a $2,900 tax refund for every woman, man, and child in Binghamton or pay the salaries of all of Binghamton's hard-hit public school teachers and staff for about two years."
This is a memorable piece as we head toward tax day, April 15th. It concludes: "A construction crew will soon arrive to install Binghamton's 'cost of war' counter which will overlook the city's busiest intersection and spur conversation around tax day. During the three minutes local motorists wait at the nearby traffic light, they can join Mayor Ryan in waving good-bye to $100. And Binghamton as a whole can grapple with spending $49,650 in war costs every day of 2010." Read it now.