The average cost of childcare in the United States now exceeds the cost of in-state college tuition.  And since the majority of children in the country live in either a single parent household or a household with two working parents, childcare has become a necessity for most American parents.

Right now, having a child is one of the top risk factors for a family to fall below the poverty line in the U.S., with families forced to spend as much as 40% of their income solely on childcare.

To make the situation even worse, childcare workers are among the lowest paid professionals in the United States, and the childcare industry itself is one of the least regulated.  Both of these are exceptionally alarming considering the fact that parents trust these businesses with their children’s lives for 8 hours or more every day.

While low-income families do have a few options to help pay for childcare – such as the Head Start program – these programs are plagued with backlogs, outdated criteria, and strict guidelines on the types of schools that can receive these children.

Based on figures from Al Jazeera, the average cost to send every child in the United States under the age of 5 to a quality childcare center would be around $194 billion per year.  That’s a hefty sum, but as Al Jazeera points out, that money can be readily available if we cut just a few wasteful spending projects from the Pentagon’s budget.

For example, if we were to cut the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program from the Pentagon budget, we would be able to fully fund universal childcare every single year.  This program is projected to cost the government upwards of $1.5 trillion over the next 4 years, and the fleet wouldn’t even be able to operate its weaponry until the year 2019 at the earliest.  So we’re going to pay one and a half trillion dollars in the next four years for a fleet of planes that don’t even work.

There’s also another $70 billion to be saved if the Pentagon would simply listen to top generals who say that we need to reduce the number of troops by about 70,000.  And let’s not forget the more than $300 billion a year that goes to private military contractors – simply cutting that number down to $100 billion would still leave enough money left to fully fund childcare in America.

The truth is that childcare costs are doing very real damage to the middle class.  They are driving people into poverty and bankruptcy, and causing unnecessary financial stress for families.  The money exists to take this burden off of American families, the U.S. just has to break free from the military industrial complex in order to focus on what really matters.

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Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at DeSmogBlog.com. He also hosts the weekly DeSmogCAST and serves as co-host for Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced