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Too Much Money for Nukes, Not Enough for Human Health

Imagine what we could invest in instead of shelling out billions of dollars each year for nuclear weapons. That money could be used to fund essential, life-saving programs and services that don’t involve destruction of the planet—e.g. clean water, nutrition for schoolchildren, healthcare disparities, income inequality, environmental health hazards and many other vital issues.

The cost of nuclear forces amounts to $494 billion over the next ten years—an average of nearly $50 billion a year. Meanwhile, we spend only $11 billion dollars more on education per year than we do nuclear weapons. $49.4 billion dollars could pay for approximately 329,000 Americans’ cancer treatments per year. $49.4 billion dollars could pay for over three and a half years’ worth of school lunches for food insecure students. The list goes on.

Tax Day, April 15, provided the perfect platform to talk about the amount of tax dollars that go to nuclear spending. Every April since 1989, Dr. Bob Dodge—currently on the PSR Board of Directors, President of PSR-Los Angeles, and co-chair of PSR’s Committee to Abolish Nuclear Weapons—has pored over government documents, performed the math and created the “Nuclear Weapons Community Costs Calculator.” Visit the web page for PSR- LA’s Nuclear Weapons Community Cost Program to calculate how much of your hard-earned tax dollars will be going to fund nuclear weapons programs, showing data for individual taxpayers and for communities such as yours.

As Dodge notes, “These costs will continue to increase with the Trump Administration’s plan to rebuild the U.S. nuclear arsenal to the tune of $1.7 trillion over the next 30 years.” The new nuclear arms race, in which the US is now seeking to “out-innovate” other nations, in President Donald Trump’s words, comes at the expense of investment in repairing damaging infrastructure, responding to communities’ urgent needs in the wake of natural disasters like the California wildfires and Hurricane Maria, and other essential funding that impacts communities’ health and resilience.

In an op-ed for The Hill, Dodge wrote, “These expenditures affect all communities across our nation as they grapple with the aftermath of natural disasters and the ability to meet basic human needs while rebuilding critical infrastructure.”  He speaks from experience, having just been through the Santa Susanna wildfire in his county.

The United States already invests heavily in the nuclear weapons enterprise. It’s time we put people’s health first and reinvest these exorbitant funds, not in weapons that would destroy human life, but in programs and services that could promote  human health. It is foolish to invest hard-earned money in nuclear weapons to prepare for a nuclear war no one wants. The cost of such a war is too much for any nation to bear—and yet, our tax dollars are helping to foot the bill. Enough is enough.