Just a Minute

Numbers ending with more than two or three zeroes baffle me. When I hear statistics, I often forget whether the figures cited were in the thousands or hundreds of thousands; dollars, whether hundreds or millions.  Can’t even imagine billions and trillions.
So, a recent mailing from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) challenged my comprehension.  The AFSC letter opens with this astounding number:
“The United States budgeted $653,110,000,000 of your tax dollars on the military this year.”


That’s way more zeroes than I can grasp.  To help number dyslexics like me, the AFSC’s letter breaks down the calculations to the expenditure per minute:
“$1.2 million spent every single minute for war and so-called defense.”
Now that the realities of the amount come a little closer to numbers I can fathom, the digits of my blood pressure start to climb.  I agree with the assessment of the AFSC—“That’s too much money.”
Based on President Obama’s 2013 federal discretionary budget request
The source the AFSC cites for this federal spending breakdown is the National Priorities Project, a 30-year old organization that “opens the federal budget door for people to understand how and where their tax dollars are spent, and how and when they can influence budget decisions.” With this information, the AFSC has launched a new campaign, One Minute for Peace. The organization knows that while peace isn’t easy, or free, investing in peace costs far less than making war. The AFSC has been doing just that in times of war and times of peace for nearly 100 years, and they have some good ideas about how to sow the seeds of peace in the U.S and throughout the world.  Their letter asks me to help them raise the equivalent of just one minute’s worth of the federal military budget (that $1.2 million) to programs that help people in need.
Here are some of the ways the AFSC would use that one minute’s worth of military spending:
·        $285,000 for trauma healing and livelihood-restoring assistance to women in Burundi through counseling, micro-loans, and training.
·        $200,000 to help Somali refugees in Kenya through post-traumatic stress counseling, peace and reconciliation workshops, and simple necessities like fuel-efficient stoves.
·        $207,000 to support peace initiatives for youth in Indonesia to counteract rising intolerance.
I rounded up some of the numbers to make it easier to deal with all the zeroes, and they add up to just under $692,000—about 33 seconds worth of the annual U.S. military budget.  AFSC asks us to imagine how much more they could do if they had a full minute’s worth.
Someday, I hope organizations like the AFSC won’t have to spend their time and resources organizing fundraising campaigns like One Minute for Peace.  But until that day comes, I’ll write checks, most with just a couple of zeroes, to groups like the AFSC. It’s money well spent.

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