Dollars and Cents Sense

Dollars and Cents Sense
Photo by Tax Credits via Flickr Creative Commons

By Ruth Gadebusch

How did we become a society of dollars for one segment and mere cents for the larger? When did we turn our priorities topsy-turvy? Making it worse, the dollars are going to the group that already had dollars, often times more than they could use.

By now, there could hardly be a person in this nation who does not know the story of the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer. The trouble is that some like it that way. We were already on the road to such ruin when the last Congressional election cemented it in. How did we get to the point where it was “me first,” no longer in this together as one society? How did we get a Congress so pennywise and pound foolish, so willing to turn its back on the weakest?

Of course, it is human to take care of oneself first but the nation long had a commitment to the least among us. Interesting enough—Or should I say frightening enough?—all too often the offenders are the same ones professing a religion that implores them to take care of the needy. Not only are we failing the needy, we seem hell-bent on creating more needy.

We have uncounted dollars to conduct wars and to maintain a military presence around the globe but only cents for mitigating the circumstances that create military action. Just think what the dollars we spend on the military, far beyond necessary defense, could do in providing healthcare, clean water, housing and food for those who now think of us as power hungry. Or, for that matter, think what it could do for the needy here at home.

The dollars spent on lobbying buy more dollars for the corporations and individuals already well-endowed to send overseas making more profit for themselves, leaving only cents for the needs of ordinary citizens. I concede that the ultimate answer for the globe is more equality in the use of resources, human and otherwise; however, the idea is to bring others to our standards, not lower us.

It seems that more dollars are currently spent on fighting healthcare than providing it. Nowhere is that more evident than in dollars spent eliminating birth control with only cents for the needs of the living children.

This nation spends dollars for prisons, leaving cents for education. So long as this continues we can expect problems to continue to grow. Education offers prevention, which no matter how one figures is still more cost effective than remediation, not that much remediation goes on in prisons. Although dollars spent on remediation would doubtless be more effective than the current cents.

It may not be exactly a dollar and cents issue but wouldn’t it make more sense to license the undocumented who must drive on our streets than to continue to ignore the necessity of driving in this country, especially if we expect them to get to jobs. In fact, we spend only cents on public transportation as opposed to dollars facilitating private vehicles.

I could go on but the point is made. It is time to reorder our priorities. Once there was a time when we could at least laugh at the idea of using the largess given to the Pentagon for education while the Pentagon lived on bake sales. Now it is cut everything across the board without consideration of who needs what. It is time to share our resources both within the nation and worldwide. No, not communism or even socialism! But some social compassion would make a lot more sense for a great nation.


Ruth Gadebusch, a community activist, is a veteran, a former member of the Fresno Unified Board of Education and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Civic Education.


  • Community Alliance

    The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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