America first?

Joseph Langan

President Donald Trump ran on an “America First” platform, but the military budget he passed through a Republican-controlled Congress hardly reflects this.

Today’s job market virtually requires Americans to earn four-year degrees, while the alternative for most is accepting a near minimum wage service job. However, The Guardian recently showed full-time workers earning minimum wage being only able to afford one-bedroom rentals in 12 counties in the entire nation. This seems to undermine Trump’s “America First” slogan.

The average four-year college degree exceeds $25,000 per year, and that price continues to rise. Total student debt exceeds one trillion dollars, a massive deterrent on spending and investment in our economy. Yet Trump’s defense budget features an increase of more than 10 percent; that’s $54 billion. And that value is just added on to the $600+ billion the U.S. already spends on the military annually.

Meanwhile, more Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are committing suicide — on average 22 per day — than dying in combat. With cuts to social programs across the country, it’s clear that our veterans aren’t receiving the support they need. Given the state of the Middle East, one has to wonder: What was all of this for? We already spend more on the military than any other nation. In fact, we spend more than the next 10 countries combinedDoes this kind of spending put Americans first, or the companies that profit from the wars Americans die in?

Let’s take Afghanistan, for instance. It’s the longest war the U.S. has entangled itself with. It has been 16 years, surpassing even the infamous conflict in Vietnam. The psychological impact on civilians who’ve grown up under the constant shadow of our unparalleled, and legally dubious, drone warfare program has not been properly considered. The tremendous consequences of civilian casualties has only increased the aggression in those regions, fueling wars without end. Al Qaeda, for example, has seen continued growth in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion. Are the results worth the cost in human lives?

It seems odd that the president should pass this budget increase when nearly the same sum could make public colleges tuition-free — an investment in America and Americans that could yield greater returns than any military jet or missile. If even a small fraction of the annual hundreds of billions of dollars was reallocated to efforts in tuition-free education, universal healthcare coverage, viable infrastructure and transportation systems, the return on investment for Americans would be profound. These investments are direly needed.

Americans face mental health disorders at rates unseen in much of the developed world. According to The Atlantic, within a 12-month period, 27 percent of Americans will experience some type of mental health disorder. Yet, over 13 million of our citizens are expected to lose their healthcare coverage due to the passing of the recent Tax Bill.

With students, veterans and workers clearly being put last, who exactly comes first in Trump’s America?

Joseph Langan is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].