Binghamton's "War Counter" to Highlight City's Budget Woes

Jo Comerford of the National Priorities Project reports on how one New York state mayor is addressing the interconnections between municipal budget shortfalls and federal spending on warfare.
April 13, 2010, 5am PDT | Michael Dudley
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Many of America's local and state governments are facing huge budget shortfalls and must make significant cuts in public services. The National Priorities Project points out that this fiscal crisis is occurring at the same time federal tax dollars are being spent by the hundreds of billions on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One small city mayor is taking up the message in a very public way: by affixing an ongoing digital tally on city hall.

"Matt Ryan, the mayor of Binghamton, New York, is...planning to...decorate the façade of City Hall with a large, digital 'cost of war' counter [which] will offer a constantly changing estimate of the total price Binghamton's taxpayers have been paying for...wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since October 2001. By September 30, 2010, the city's "war tax" will reach $138.6 million.

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...hire 2,765 public safety officers for a year, or simply refund the 12 police positions cut in the latest budget contraction and guarantee those salaries for the next 230 years."

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Published on Monday, April 12, 2010 in TomDispatch
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