Setting Priorities

Senators on Wednesday began putting their imprint on the nation's budget with a plan to devote more resources to education, the environment, energy research and other domestic priorities. The Senate Budget Committee also would provide $35 billion to help stimulate the slumping U.S. economy. A member of the panel, Senator Bernie Sanders has called for more help for seniors and others facing record-high home heating bills. That's included in the stimulus package. Like the White House budget, the

Senators on Wednesday began putting their imprint on the nation's budget with a plan to devote more resources to education, the environment, energy research and other domestic priorities. The Senate Budget Committee also would provide $35 billion to help stimulate the slumping U.S. economy. A member of the panel, Senator Bernie Sanders has called for more help for seniors and others facing record-high home heating bills. That's included in the stimulus package. Like the White House budget, the Senate version includes $70 billion for fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009, but nothing beyond then. Sanders is emerging as a leading Pentagon budget watchdog whose concerns echo those of a former president. "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies…a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed," the former general said.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke in 1953 as the nation emerged from the Korean conflict and was locked in a Cold War with the Soviet Union. Today, it is the war in Iraq that has drained resources from national priorities. The money spent on the war in Iraq each day is enough to enroll 58,000 children in Head Start for a year, or make a year of college affordable for 160,000 low-income students, or pay the annual salaries of 14,000 more police officers, according to calculations by the congressional Joint Economic Committee. "For a fraction of the cost of this war, we could have put Social Security on a sound footing for the next half-century or more," Economist Robert Hormats noted in testimony before the panel.

To watch Senator Sanders discuss the budget in a Senate floor speech on Wednesday, click here.

To listen to an excerpt of Eisenhower's speech in 1953 to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, click here.

To read Bob Herbert's New York Times column on the war and domestic spending priorities, click here.

To read a summary of the Senate Budget Committee plan, click here.