A new report, “New York 2000: Critical Needs, Federal Priorities,” by the National Priorities Project finds that, over the past 18 years, after adjusting for inflation, federal spending in New York in five key areas (economic security, education, the environment, health care and housing) has declined by $3.9 billion per year. The report also analyzes a set of objective indicators to document that New York’s needs in these areas are substantial and growing. Over the same 18-year period, however, annual spending for the military has grown by $10.7 billion per year, even after adjusting for inflation.
The National Priorities Project (NPP) is a privately funded research and education organization, based in Northampton, Massachusetts, that provides citizen and community groups throughout the country with the tools and resources that they need to help shape federal budget and policy priorities. NPP was joined by four New York organizations (the Fiscal Policy Institute, Statewide Youth Advocacy, The Interfaith Alliance of New York and the Community Service Society of New York) in releasing its report on the relationship between federal spending priorities and New Yorkers’ standard of living and their quality of life.
The report and a questionnaire that New York voters can use to determine their House and Senate candidates’ stands on key spending priority issues are being released in conjunction with the official start of the Congressional campaign season on Tuesday, June 6. This is the first day on which candidates who are seeking party nominations for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives from any of New York State’s 31 Congressional Districts can begin collecting the signatures necessary to get on the ballot. This process runs for a little more than a month with the candidates required to file their petitions with the appropriate Board of Elections between July 10 and July 13. The report, detailed data sources and the candidate questionnaire are available in PDF format.
In New York, according to the report’s analysis of a series of objective economic and social indicators, the level of need exceeds the federal government’s commitment to meeting those needs. While federal funding in the areas examined by the report was shrinking, the number of New York children living in poverty increased by more than 300,000 — from 877,000 in 1980 to 1.2 million in 1998. While the Head Start program only receives enough money to serve one-third the eligible children in New York, spending for the military has increased to $296 billion per year.
Other indicators of New York’s level of need contained in the report include:
- 90% of schools are in need of significant repair;
- 3.2 million had no health insurance in 1998, up from 2 million in 1987;
- 52% of renters were unable to pay the fair market rent in 1999;
- 50% of jobs with the most growth pay poverty wages;
- 44,715 New York residents drink polluted water.
While the federal commitment to address these needs has declined since 1980, this period saw no such funding shortfall for the Pentagon. In fact, over this 18 year period the Pentagon received a cumulative $1.3 trillion dollar increase. Today the U.S. military budget is 2.5 times that of Russia, China, and all other potential military threats combined.
The report warns that federal spending in New York for these key non-military areas may be reduced even further to accommodate increased Pentagon spending. Last year the Pentagon requested a $112 billion, 6-year increase in its budget and the FY 2000 budget included a request for an additional $12.6 billion as its first installment. When Congress passed its FY 2000 budget resolution in April, it agreed to give the Pentagon even more – a $19 billion increase. And the FY2001 Budget Resolution set military spending at $310.8 billion, $18.2 billion more than FY2000. According to the Balanced Budget Agreement of 1997, every dollar of increase for the Pentagon will mean a dollar less to address critical social and economic infrastructure needs.
This is the third year in a row that the National Priorities Project has issued its assessment of how federal spending policies impact states and communities. Besides issuing a national report on The State of the States, NPP also produces individualized reports for each of the 50 states, such as the New York report that it is issuing in conjunction with the Fiscal Policy Institute, Statewide Youth Advocacy, The Interfaith Alliance of New York and the Community Service Society of New York. According to NPP’s rankings, no state lost more federal support than New York over the last 18 years. At the same time the report shows that New York continues to have substantial social needs. For example, New York had the highest percentage of families unable to afford the fair market rent for housing and the fifth highest child poverty rate.
“We have an historic opportunity to redefine national security in terms of how we care for the people of this nation rather than by how many weapons we can stockpile,” said Greg Speeter, Executive Director of the National Priorities Project. “We can keep our borders secure and still create jobs that pay a livable wage, provide a decent education and access affordable health care. These things should also be seen as measures of national security.”
David R. Jones, Chief Executive Officer and President of the Community Service Society of New York, responded to the report by listing the areas in which his organization, (a private, nonprofit social service organization which since it was formed over 150 years ago has led the fight in New York City against poverty) would like to see federal funds invested. “Welfare reform made an implicit promise; if you work you will be able to lift your family out of poverty. Federal spending should make good on that deal. Low-income workers need more access to Food Stamps, medical insurance, job training, as well as a more generous Earned Income Tax Credit.”
On Friday, June 2, representatives of Statewide Youth Advocacy, The Interfaith Alliance of New York State and the Fiscal Policy Institute joined Greg Speeter and Pam Schwartz of the National Priorities Project in presenting an educational briefing on how federal spending priorities impact New Yorkers. The briefing was held at the State Capitol in Albany.
Ed Bloch, Director of The Interfaith Alliance of New York State, discussed the connections between the large portion of the federal budget that goes to military spending and the pursuit of social justice objectives. “Compelling evidence demonstrates that technology cannot provide dependable security. We will find security only when people outside our borders and within them can achieve the scriptural demands of all faiths and live in peace, relative equality and mutual respect — and not before. The true time bomb grows out of the polarization of wealth, income and services provided. New York State is the pre-eminent example of such polarization. The mountains of wealth heaped on the Pentagon and its providers comes at the expense of care for those least well off, making our increasingly violent community more fragile than ever.” (Full text of Ed’s remarks at the briefing.)
Elie Ward, Executive Director of Statewide Youth Advocacy, spoke about the impact of federal funding priorities on New York’s children and families. “Federal funding decisions directly impact the range of programs and services available to children in New York state. It is imperative that members of Congress provide the necessary leadership to ensure children’s programmatic needs are reflected in our national budget priorities.”
Frank Mauro, Executive Director of the Fiscal Policy Institute discussed the relevance to this year’s Congressional elections of Senator Daniel P. Moynihan’s annual reports on New York State and the Federal Fisc. Moynihan’s most recent report indicated that New York’s “balance of payments deficit” with the federal treasury for 1998 was $15 billion, the fourth largest of any state in the nation. According to Mauro, a much more important finding of Moynihan’s report for New York State’s Congressional candidates, is that our state ranks near the bottom in the distribution of so-called “discretionary” federal spending – 48th in per capita military spending and 42nd in per capita non-defense discretionary spending – but first per capita when it comes to means-tested assistance programs, including Medicaid, AFDC, Food Stamps, Housing Assistance, and Unemployment Insurance. “When federal funds are distributed on the basis of objective measures of need, New York does well,” said Mauro. “We need the federal government to reexamine its priorities and make a real commitment to distributing federal funds on the basis of objective measures of need. New York voters can and should ask their Congressional candidates how they will work to move the federal budget in this direction.”
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The National Priorities Project is a privately funded, research and education organization that provides citizen and community groups with tools and resources that they can use to shape federal budget priorities which promote social and economic justice.
The Fiscal Policy Institute is a non-partisan research and education organization founded in 1991 to increase public and governmental understanding of issues related to the fairness of New York’s tax system and the stability and adequacy of state and local public services.
Community Service Society of New York, a private, nonprofit social service organization dedicated to fostering a better life for poor residents of New York City. Since it began over 150 years ago, CSS has been a leader in the fight against poverty, focusing its efforts on income maintenance, health care, affordable housing and education.
The Interfaith Alliance of New York State (TIANYS) is a grassroots organization that provides a mainstream, faith-based voice on issues involving justice and peace.
Statewide Youth Advocacy, Inc. is a private not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of New York’s children.