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Refocusing priorities on American needs at home

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Seems like every time I turn on the TV, I see another pundit or politician calling for greater American military intervention in response to ISIS, or heading to war with Iran, or cleaning up after some other conflict around the world.

While these threats are real and must be taken seriously, America can no longer afford to go it alone.

We spend billions overseas every year and put thousands of young American men and women in harm’s way. And we pay for it by taking out new loans -- mostly from foreign countries like China and Japan.

In the meantime, our allies are free to invest significantly more in public education, in health care, in infrastructure, in research and development, and in lower taxes.

We should be making those investments. But the budgets passed this week by the majority in Congress don’t.

Under the Republicans’ plan, Medicare would be privatized, our public lands would be sold off, working families’ access to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit would be reduced, Pell Grants would be cut by a third and millions would lose access to affordable health care.

Instead of balancing the budget on the backs of middle class families, seniors, students and our nation’s most vulnerable, we need to fully invest in our roads and bridges, in our outdoor economy, in early childhood and higher education.

That’s the only way we’ll be able to compete in the global economy.

But these things cost money and we need to find it somewhere.

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So I suggest we look at what we’re spending overseas because it prevents us from investing here at home.

Right now, we use an account called the Overseas Contingency Operations Fund to fund international conflicts, but it’s become a slush fund for the Defense Department. It’s all off the books.

The United States spends more on defense than the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and China combined.

Two serious international threats -- ISIS and Russian aggression in Ukraine -- pose just as grave a threat to our allies in the Middle East and Europe as they do to us.

And yet, we’re the ones paying an overwhelming majority of the costs.

The price is far too high.

It’s not just dollars and cents. It’s the lives of our kids. It’s the wounds they face when they return from war, if they return at all. We must always bear the cost of supporting veterans. But we must be certain that the battles they fight are worth it and that other countries share the burden.

But if we refocus our efforts back home, we can invest in public education, in health care, in infrastructure, in sound forest management. And in cutting down the deficit.

These are the investments we must make. Not another war.

Jon Tester is Montana’s senior U.S. Senator and a farmer from Big Sandy.

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