Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently uttered words rarely spoken by elected leaders in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He declared that Virginia needs to wean itself from federal defense dollars. “The economy of the past, where we could simply take the economic benefits of federal government activities in our state, is over,” McAuliffe told the Governor’s Advisory Council on Revenue Estimates last week.
Is it a new day for the Commonwealth?
Virginia, home of the Pentagon, the Norfolk naval base, and a bevy of defense contractors, is more dependent on military spending than any other state in the country. More than 13 percent of Virginia’s gross domestic product is derived from defense spending. Only Alaska and Hawaii are close in terms of their dependence.
Cutting military spending is right for the country. It’s necessary. Of all the money that the president requests and Congress appropriates every year (the federal “discretionary budget”) more than half goes to war and defense-related expenditures. (By comparison, education gets just six percent of federal dollars, and housing and community get about five percent.) Congress actually allotted more money to the war in Afghanistan last year than it gave to the Department of Education.
Our children and our country urgently need a change in priorities. My hope is that the Governor’s recent comment signaled the beginning of a new conversation.
War has been good to Virginia. We need to make peace even better.