Since the Second World War, the U.S. has established its dominance in the world by having the strongest military force. To maintain its dominance, the U.S. has had to spend close to
what the entire world has had to spend in defence - as mentioned in the first part of this two-part article (“The Economics of Warfare”). However, investments in the defence sector has not been matched by other segments of the economy, such as education. On social media, as a response to the first part of this article and the current political climate, detractors have accused me as being an enemy of freedom and the military. This is simply untrue as I have great respect for the men and women that serve this country; however, I believe that education is a fundamental human-right that promotes individual empowerment and yields important development benefits. As a college student, it worries me that the investment in public tertiary education is not growing rampantly - unlike its ever-expanding counterpart:
the defence sector.
The U.S. has been transformed from a manufacturing-based economy, to an economy based on human capital. The importance of a college education today can be compared to that of a high-school education forty years ago. Education serves as the gateway to better options and more opportunity; individuals who attend college earns considerably more as a result of their higher level of education. In fact, college graduates earn more than twice as much as high school graduates. The access of education is often times a neglected aspect in policy formulation. From a numerical standpoint, the United States is by far the wealthiest nation on Earth; nonetheless, as with poverty stricken nations, millions of children and adults in the United States have been deprived of educational opportunities at the tertiary level due to the sheer cost of education. The Centre on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that a mere 2% ($78.9 billion) of the Federal Budget is allocated towards education, as opposed to the 18% that is appropriated towards defence. Due to the inability of state-run public institutions to compensate for the high cost of education, enrolment rates are slashed which has gravely affected students from low socio-economic classes who heavily depend on public institutions to further their education.
The root of the decaying structure of the American public education system can mainly be attributed to the lack of funding. The war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the recent rise of ISIS, has led to a lack of funding for education. American universities are amongst the best ranked in the world with the highest output of research compared to any other nation. While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the quality of American tertiary education, the education system is at fault as it excludes millions from attaining it - and those who do, they acquire it with a heavy cost. As fees have skyrocketed at public institutions, so has the student debt; the average graduate of an institution leaves school with a debt of more than $35000 . Student debt constrains young people's ability to start a business, buy a home, or pursue a public-interest career.
Reallocating funds from the defence sector and investing it into education and social programs is not as drastic as it seems. Public schools account for over 75% of undergraduates that are educated. Bernie Sanders, the current frontrunner for the Democratic ticket, aims to provide free education; Americans seem to want tertiary education that is accessible to all without excessively burdening the tax base . Reducing the cost of public education might not be far-fetched if adequate funds are appropriated by divesting a minimal amount from the defence sector as it consumes the largest percentage of the federal budget besides other social programs. From a strategic perspective, it is evident that a powerful military results in hegemonic dominance. However, American military spending dwarfs that of its rival China by 5:1. China spends over $130 billion on its defence budget in comparison to America’s $581 billion. A reduction in the defence budget will not significantly dent America’s hegemonic dominance.
It can’t be denied that there are numerous variables to the monumental budget of the defence sector. The federal budget allocated to the defence sector include numerous scientific undertakings that have greatly benefited us all. Most of the advanced technology we utilise in civilian life were developed and initially tested by the US military; for example, global navigation systems, as well as the cell phone, and even the internet. The defence sector and the armed forces should be given credit where it's due. It should also not be forgotten that the U.S military partakes in numerous humanitarian missions around the world and is usually the first to respond. However, active engagement in conflicts throughout the world has its repercussions. As monetary resources are scarce, funds meant for social programs, such as education, are exclusively appropriated towards the military in the name of national security.
Education is important to society as it is a great equaliser. Education should not be neglected because it acts as an engine of social mobility which enables individuals to escape poverty and contribute more to their community and country. We must realise the importance of education; we must aim to ensure that each citizen of our nation is educated and independent for the betterment of society. Too much priority has been spent developing- and dropping- bombs when we should be devoting economic resources to develop young minds for a better future.
Policy Basics: Where Do Our Federal Tax Dollars Go?" Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.
Sparshott, Jeffrey. "Congratulations, Class of 2015. You’re the Most Indebted Ever (For Now)." WSJ. The Wall Street Journal, 8 May 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.
Weissmann, Jordan. "Here's Exactly How Much the Government Would Have to Spend to Make Public College Tuition-Free." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 3 Jan. 2014. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.