One of President Obama’s reasons for renewing his vow to close the prison at Guantanam is the cost. The prison currently costs $150 million per year to operate, with 166 prisoners still being held indefinitely, the cost is estimated at approximately $903,614 per prisoner. The expenses incorporated in these numbers include the various costs of running the court system on the U.S. Naval Base, which range from lawyers to judges. Not to mention that everything and everyone who enters the base, must be ferried. Here are 10 better ways to spend the money that is currently being tossed into Guantanamo Bay.
1. Feeding the Children of the U.S.
In 2011, over 16.7 million kids in the United States lived in what is considered a “food insecure household”. These children live in homes that are unable to provide enough food to maintain a healthy lifestyle. $150 million could not only help the various organizations designed to feed these children, but could possibly leave enough left over to just set up a sandwich stand and pass out free sandwiches to people who need them.
2. STEM Education
It’s becoming clear that STEM careers (science, technology, engineering, math) are careers of the future. Although these careers are among the highest paid and provide the greatest ROI when compared to the salaries of college graduates in other fields, there is still a shortage of women in STEM careers. One of the reasons for the shortage has been speculated to be because many women aren’t encouraged to enter these fields as children. Some progress has been made, but many colleges are being forced to cut liberal arts programs to make room for necessary STEM programs. $900,000, or the cost of caring for one GITMO prisoner for a year, could be better spent on funding programs which encourage all areas of creativity and exploration, without robbing one to pay for another.
3. Mental Health
It has been estimated that at least 45.6 million American adults suffer from some form of mental illness, with only 38.2% receiving mental health services. In 2006, it was reported that over half, or 1.25 million prison inmates suffer from mental health issues. $4.35 billion in funding has been eliminated from state budgets, resulting in many people who desperately need help, being turned away. $150 million per year, could be extremely useful in assisting patients who need medication and counseling. If not for assisting patients, the money could at least be spent on researching cures and prevention.
4. Food and Water for Somalia
Most Americans will never have to watch their children and loved ones die in the middle of the desert because of lack of food and/or water. It has been estimated that 260,000 people, half of which were children under the age of 5, died from 2010 to 2012. For the staunch supporters of the theory that we should worry about ourselves, consider which just feels better- $150 million spent on helping people who are dying because of famine or $150 million spent on maintaining an unnecessary prison.
Oftentimes we only consider the importance of the NASA program when we are either afraid an asteroid is going to destroy the earth, or when we consider that maybe we will destroy the earth so drastically that being able to move to another planet would be nice. Unfortunately, no kind of space exploration is going to be possible without NASA. The space shuttle alone costs approximately $1.5 billion per flight. If you want to know what’s on the moon, and considering the earth in its current condition, it’s probably a good idea to keep NASA maintained.
6. Meals on Wheels
The Meals on Wheels program costs $900,000 to serve meals to the elderly in 7 states, which is around the same amount that it costs to keep one prisoner at Guantanamo for a year. Meals on Wheels provides a million meals a day and because of the impact of the sequestration, it is estimated that 19 million fewer meals will be served to elderly people whose entire diets depend on them.
7. Cancer Research or Other Disease Related Research
Although more people are recovering from cancer, 7.6 million people across the globe are still dying from cancer every year. It has been predicted that by the year 2030, this number will increase by 80%. Many of the various cancers may be somewhat prevented or treated, but there is still no clear cancer cure available. Even if you don’t believe cancer research deserves the money spent on Guantanamo Bay, there has to be some other disease or disorder out there that is drastically short funded, which could use an extra $150 million per year.
8. Homes for Homeless People
In January 2012, it was estimated that over $633,000 people were homeless. This number includes those who periodically visit or live in a shelter or form of transitional housing as well as those who are living in cars, abandoned buildings or other places not considered “homes”.
Not providing for homeless people and leaving them for jail, hospitals or other emergency situations costs approximately $40,000 per year per person, yet providing publicly funded supportive housing costs about half of that. It is actually costing more money to ignore the homeless issue than to address it.
9. Head Start Preschool Programs
As with most things concerning low-income children, there has been a debate about whether or not the Head Start program, which provides preschool and early pre-school programs for poor kids, is actually necessary. Head Start is another program affected by the current sequestration and will lose approximately $400 million, $150,000 per program in 2013. These cuts have resulted in a decrease in salary for teachers who, in 2009, only made $26,000 per year in the first place. The cuts also affect the working poor, who depend on Head Start programs for daycare.
10. All Sequestration Cuts
Besides Meals on Wheels and the Head Start program, the sequestration has resulted in cutting various government services, totaling $109 billion. Although a large number that many of us can’t even imagine, it actually totals just over 7 years of GITMO expenses. There is absolutely no logical reason for government services to be cut this drastically, while $150 million per year is spent maintaining Guantanamo.
The total cost of maintaining GITMO since 2002 is unclear but may be as much as 2 billion and according to General John Kelly, head of Southern Command, $170 million more is needed to improve the facilities for the troops. Of course, you can’t just take a chunk of money from one place and throw it into another, and even if you aren’t in agreement with feeding and sheltering people, there has to be a better way or, at least 150 million better ways to spend all of that money.