Women Legislators' Lobby

Rep. Brenda Gilmore: Honor women this month by investing in them

Rep. Brenda Gilmore

Rep. Brenda Gilmore (TN)

Originally published on March 31, 2016 in The Tennessean.

This Women’s History Month, as we honor women’s legacies in fighting for equal rights and peaceful conflict resolution, I am also taking the time to reflect on how the country is prioritizing its federal budget investments and why that matters for women.

American women should be concerned with where our federal budget dollars are invested because of the unique economic challenges that women face. For instance, as primary caretakers of children and the elderly, women have less flexibility to find full-time work and therefore are more reliant on government assistance programs.

Women are increasingly becoming the breadwinners in both single- and two-parent households, and when the economic status of women declines, families and communities suffer, too.

As a member of the Tennessee legislature, I work to use state and federal dollars to invest in programs aiding the progress of women. Yet, federal dollars flowing to the state are in short supply.

In fact, more than half of the discretionary budget that Congress appropriates each year goes to spending on wars and the Pentagon.

That means that funds for the rest of the discretionary budget — which goes to various programs that support the public good, like health care, job training, education, housing services and child care — are less available.

Citizens of Nashville, in fact, are paying $1.08 billion in taxes each year that go straight to the Department of Defense. And the reality is that much of that money is not being used effectively.

Take, for example, the Pentagon’s plans to spend $1 trillion upgrading our entire nuclear arsenal. Twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War, the United States continues to maintain 4,670 nuclear weapons in its arsenal that, in terms of force structure, looks very similar to what it did in the past.

Not only are these weapons costly, but they also contain unquantified opportunity costs. With the possibility of nuclear war ever present, real, lasting and sustainable peace is impossible, continuing to draw resources toward conflict.

You may be asking: What does this have to do with women? A lot. I am a member of a women’s organization that was founded at the height of the Cold War, when nuclear war loomed large. These women stood up against the radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons testing ending up in their breast milk. They were concerned about nothing less than the future of our planet. They realized long ago that investing in bombs rather than people would destroy the fabric of our society.

Last year, Nashvillians alone paid $41.01 million in taxes for U.S. nuclear weapons, according to the National Priorities Project. To put this in perspective, with this same amount of money, 4,978 children can receive child care at Head Start and 5,471 people can be helped with low-income health care. I would rather see the hard-earned money of Tennesseans going to helping Tennesseans.

America is the strongest nation on earth. We have the resources to keep our country safe and secure while also investing in our communities: providing high-quality education for our children, creating good-paying jobs and providing a social safety net to combat the cycle of poverty.

I urge Tennessee’s members of Congress, including Nashville’s Rep. Jim Cooper, to scrutinize what is actually needed for security so that our women aren’t shortchanged.

Brenda Gilmore represents the 54th district of Tennessee and is a member of the Women Legislators’ Lobby (WiLL), a program of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND).

Originally published on March 31, 2016 in The Tennessean.


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