Thursday, October 14, 2010


President Obama often expressed during his campaign that if he became President he wanted we, the people, to let him know when we thought he needed a reality check. Accordingly, New York City's Granny Peace Brigade has been out on the City's streets lately conducting a survey of citizens as to how they want their tax dollars spent. I think their results would surprise him and would perhaps motivate Mr. Obama to make some serious adjustments to the federal budget.

The grannies have been conducting their survey with the aid of a unique gadget named Ms. Gizmo, consisting of eight tubes representing eight major budget items. They are marked Arts and Culture; Education; Environment and Clean Energy; Health Care; Housing; Jobs; Military; and Transportation. The women give each person participating twenty pennies which they are then invited to put into the tubes of their choice. At the end of each session, the grandmothers total up the numbers of pennies in each category.

In addition to getting a sense of where people want their tax money to go, the Ms. Gizmo actions provide an opportunity to educate and motivate the public. Those joining in the fun are very enthusiastic, and there is much dialogue between the grannies and the survey takers. It seems to be an excellent way to get people to think seriously about how the obscenely high military budget drastically reduces funding for domestic needs.

It's amazing how the priorities of our citizens differ markedly from the current budget. For instance, whereas today's federal budget spends 48% on current and past military expenses, the survey reveals that altogether the participants want to devote only 5% to the military. Interestingly, the ONLY group that put a good supply of pennies into the military tube were young adolescent boys in East Harlem. We speculate that this is a result of the relentless military recruitment conducted in minority schools and the lack of jobs for these young people forcing them to turn to the military for economic survival.

On the other hand, for example, the U.S. budget only earmarks 38% to ALL human resources, which includes health and human services; education; food/nutrition programs; housing and urban development; and other human resources. That seems woefully small, does it not, when compared to the enormous amounts of money allocated for the military? The Ms. Gizmo participants want to devote 19% to just health care alone, 21% for education alone and 19% solely for jobs.

Of course, it can't be claimed that this is a scientifically accurate poll. However, it does cover a variety of populations -- Brooklyn workers, the lower east side community heavily populated by university students and artists, the upper West Side professionals and yuppies, East Harlem Latinos, the opinionated denizens of Union Square, and the fun-seeking crowds from everywhere who flock to 42nd Street.

It is known that Mr. Obama is a very punctilious person when it comes to getting the facts right, so perhaps he would be interested in learning the full results for the budget which 538 people in six different locations wished for:

Arts & Culture -- 8%
Education -- 21%
Environment & Clean Energy - 9%
Health Care - 19%
Housing -- 12%
Jobs -- 19%
Military -- 5%
Transportation -- 6%

It is urgently hoped that President Obama "gets the message!"

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