Community Organizing

Organizing for Fair Budget Priorities

by Jo Schlesinger

Are you concerned about the cuts in essential federal economic and social programs through the sequestration and deep cuts made in the current State budget? We know that people across Western Pennsylvania are already working hard across the state for fair budget priorities but we need to hear each other’s voices and support each other’s efforts.

For example, Governor Corbett does not want to accept federal funding to support of Medicaid expansion through the federal Affordable Care Act. “If Pennsylvania fails to accept the opportunity to expand Medicaid, thousands of working people in this state will remain unable to access health insurance and the care they need” states Dr. Cheryl Bettigole from the National Physician’s Alliance.”

According to State Senator Matt Smith,

“Governor Corbett’s latest budget proposal reflects the same extreme ideology that we have seen from this administration for the last two budgets. The Governor’s two years in office have been marked by severe cuts to programs that benefit Pennsylvania’s hard working families, children and seniors. As we continue to grapple with high unemployment and slow job growth, we must address the issues facing all Pennsylvanians, particularly issues facing our most vulnerable citizens. We must invest in areas such as early childhood education, STEM programs, and school safety. Tying these programs to the sale of state assets is the wrong approach.”

On the national level, the sequester cut both military and domestic programs. We know that while the Pentagon could easily absorb cuts mandated by sequestration, but social programs, already cut to the bone, cannot.

The impacts of sequestration are real. The National Priorities Project finds that Pittsburgh taxpayers will pay $499.5 million of the projected FY2013 baseline Pentagon budget. That same amount could provide one year of  health care to 18,127 low-income children, pay 673 elementary school teachers, provide 6,785 Head Start slots for children, provide VA medical care to 6,338 military veterans, 8,182 student Pell Grants, and much more.

To put education in perspective, at Penn State University, the Pennsylvania share of projected Pentagon spending for FY2013, $28.1 billion, would fund all in-state expenses of a four-year education for each incoming freshman class for the next 26 years.

Just the portion of the budget for  weapon’s acquisition (1/4 of total Pentagon spending) is many times higher than total funding for critical domestic assistance programs. The Pentagon continues to waste billions of dollars for  outdated, Cold War legacy weapons and other programs and weapons many national security experts agree are unnecessary.

We could save billions annually if we:


  • eliminate military waste and inefficiencies,

  • end R&D and procurement of unnecessary weapons systems,

  • dramatically reduce the nuclear warhead arsenal,

  • eliminate two active Air Force wings and two carrier groups which are unnecessary for addressing current and probable future threats,

  • scale back outsourcing to military contractors by 15% and

  • end Foreign Military Financing.

A coalition of social, environmental and peace groups based in Pittsburgh are joining with progressive groups and individuals across Western PA to build a stronger, more effective network to work for fair and just budget priorities at the federal and state level. We will  be in a stronger position to demand redistribution of resources to our communities.  This includes cutting the  inflated Pentagon budget, and opposing state and federal  tax breaks and subsidies that benefit  multinational corporations and the rich at our expense.

Our goal is to organize and support citizen action through the media and in the public square, and pressure our federal and state elected officials. There is power in numbers. To the present federal and state budget crises present a challenge and opportunity to build alliances and coalitions concerned about human and community needs, public education, the environment, and peace.

We all must stand up and say, Enough is enough! This country is not broke – let’s act to redistribute the wealth and create a budget that invests in people.

Contact AFSC-PA Program Director Scilla Wahrhaftig (412)315-7423 to join our efforts.

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