The shout of the Occupy movement, at least in D.C., has been "End the Wars, Tax the Rich!" in that order and in combination. Over half of federal discretionary spending goes to the war machine. We ought to fix that problem first, and then fix the problem that our overlords aren't actually paying their fair share of the taxes. My friend Leah Bolger is about to face a possible sentence of months in prison for having taken this message to the Super Committee. Remember them?
But the big, well-funded liberal/progressive groups that are borrowing the language of Occupy and organizing 99% Spring nonviolence trainings are talking about taxing the rich, never mind what the taxes are spent on. I just spoke with someone organizing a bunch of "patriotic millionaires" to come to Washington, D.C., and talk about how they'd like to be taxed more. I suggested that they might also comment on what their money should go to, and I was told that saying more than one simple thing was bad messaging policy.
Really? How about if it rhymes? How do we fix the deficit / End the wars and tax the rich! When we chant that, random people join in marches. Are we sure it's bad messaging policy? Has that been focus grouped?
The annual Take Back the American Dream conference actually had a panel on war last year. I was on it. But it was far from the focus. Here's the event's current "messaging" about its conference this coming summer:
"At this conference, we'll be tackling some of the most pressing questions we face today:
"How do we compel candidates to embrace a jobs agenda big enough to end our economic crisis?
"How can we stop unlimited corporate campaign cash from buying this election?
"How many progressive champions can we help win in congressional, state and local races?
"How will we take back our democracy--to Take Back the American Dream?"
In fairness there's nothing there about taxing the rich either. But there's certainly no mention of military spending or war. Perhaps when the full agenda is announced I'll be pleasantly surprised , as I was last year.
Another upcoming "progressive" conference has just published its full schedule of panels and workshops. This one is called Netroots Nation. In recent years, I've always complained that they had nothing on war. They've always responded that I ought to have proposed a panel on the topic. I've always pointed out that I did in fact do so. I did so this year as well, just as I did for Left Forum and UNAC and other conferences that said Yes and included them. Among the dozens and dozens of panels announced by Netroots Nation, none focuses on cutting military spending, a fact that never ceases to amaze me, as pinching a bit from the military could pay for everything else progressives want. There are a few panels that touch on war, one of which even mentions the Pentagon budget in passing:
"Decoding Defense: Speaking with Authority on National Security Issues
"It's an old cliche: The GOP is the 'national security' party. But Barack Obama's foreign and domestic policies are changing that idea. The armed services have played a key role in debates over foreign policy, the budget, gay rights, immigration and civil liberties. Vets transitioning to the homefront have taken the lead in the Occupy movement, the push for clean energy and reforms to education. Speaking with authority on military issues is critical for progressives in the coming year, but it's also daunting. How do you navigate a Pentagon budget? What's the difference between a commissioned and noncommissioned officer? Who watchdogs military contractors? What organizations exist to connect progressives and vets? Attendees to this workshop will learn how to 'speak DOD,' find and decipher important military info, articulate progressive national security goals in simple statements, rebut conservative talking points and reach out with empathy to veterans who are receptive to progressive ideals.
"Panelists: Bryan Rahija, Adam Weinstein."
Hmm. The goal here seems to be making the Democratic Party the party of militarism. If that's not entirely clear from the above description, check out this one for another Netroots Nation panel:
"Intervention, Isolation and the Future of Progressive Security Policy