Senator Bernie Sanders has finally done something that some of us thought would give his presidential campaign a big boost four years ago, and again this past year. He's proposed to introduce legislation to move a significant amount of money from militarism to human and environmental needs (or at least human needs; the details aren't clear, but moving money out of militarism is an environmental need).
Better late than never! Let's make it happen with an overwhelming show of public support! And let's make it a first step!
Technically, back in February, Bernie buried in a fact-sheet about how he would pay for everything he wanted to do, an $81 billion annual cut to military spending. While his current proposal is even smaller at $74 billion, it is a straightforward proposal to move the money; it's not buried in a long document seeking to pay for transformative change almost entirely by taxing the wealthy; it's already been covered at least by progressive media; it connects with a current burst of extraordinary activism, and Sanders has tweeted this:
"Instead of spending $740 billion on the Dept. of Defense, let's rebuild communities at home devastated by poverty and incarceration. I'll be filing an amendment to cut the DoD by 10% and reinvest that money in cities and towns that we've neglected and abandoned for far too long."
"Instead of spending more money on weapons of mass destruction designed to kill as many people as possible, maybejust maybewe should invest in improving lives right here in the United States of America. That's what my amendment is all about."
One reason for this move by Sanders is almost certainly the current activism demanding that resources be moved from armed policing to useful expenses. The grotesque diversion of local budgets into militarized police and prisons is of course far outstripped in absolute numbers, in proportions, and in the suffering and death created, by Congress's diversion of the federal discretionary budget into war and preparations for more war which is of course where the weaponry and warrior training and a lot of the destructive attitudes and the troubled misguided veterans in local policing come from.
Trump's 2021 budget request varies little from past years. It includes 55% of discretionary spending for militarism. That leaves 45% of the money Congress votes on for everything else: environmental protections, energy, education, transportation, diplomacy, housing, agriculture, science, disease pandemics, parks, foreign (non-weapons) aid, etc., etc.
The priorities of the U.S. government have been wildly out of touch with both morality and public opinion for decades, and have been moving in the wrong direction even as awareness of the crises facing us has inched upward. It would cost less than 3% of U.S. military spending, according to UN figures, to end starvation on earth, and about 1% to provide the world with clean drinking water. Less than 7% of military spending would wipe out poverty in the United States.
Another reason for Sanders making his proposal now could possibly be that Sanders is no longer running for president. I don't know that to be the case, but it would fit the odd relationship that peace has long had with politicians and with the corporate media.
Of the many extraordinary things about the current explosion of activism around racism and police brutality, perhaps the most extraordinary has been the corporate media response. The New York Times editorial page and Twitter have both suddenly announced that there are limits to how evil they should be. It's suddenly become unacceptable to claim that patriotic flag worship outweighs anti-racism. Media outlets and corporations are falling all over themselves to declare their allegiance to opposing racism, if not to opposing police murders. And local governments and state governments are taking actions. All of this builds pressure on Congress to at least make some minor gestures in the right direction.
We can now read in the most corporate of corporate journalism about things that a month ago were called "officer involved deaths" but now are sometimes called "murders." This is staggering. We are witnessing the often-denied power of activism, and the interlocking nature of supposedly symbolic steps like removing statues, supposedly rhetorical steps like calling murder murder, and supposedly more substantive steps like getting the police out of schools.
But, compare this to the response we've seen when antiwar activism has flourished. Even when the streets were relatively full in 2002 - 2003, the corporate media never went along, never changed its tune, never let antiwar voices exceed 5 percent of broadcast media guests, never employed antiwar voices, and never switched over to calling "humanitarian military operations" murder. One problem is that local governments don't vote on war. And yet, they repeatedly have done just that. Before, during, and ever since that highpoint of activism, local U.S. governments have passed resolutions opposing particular wars and demanding that money be moved from militarism to human needs. The corporate media has never found a single damn it could give. And politicians who knew better have run away from an extremely popular, and longterm consistently popular position.
As Politico reported in 2016 on Sanders, "In 1995, he introduced a bill to terminate America's nuclear weapons program. As late as 2002, he supported a 50 percent cut for the Pentagon." What changed? Moving the money out of militarism only became more popular. The money in militarism only mushroomed higher. But Bernie ran for president.
In 2018, many of us signed an open letter to Bernie Sanders asking him to do better. Some of us met with some of his top staff. They claimed to agree. They said they'd do better. And to some degree they certainly did. Bernie sporadically included the Military Industrial Complex in his list of targets. He stopped talking so much about war as a public service. He sometimes talked about moving the money our of weaponry, although sometimes implying that the problem was largely in other countries, despite the U.S. titles of top spender and top dealer in weapons. But he never released a budget proposal. (As far as I have been able to find out, no U.S. presidential candidate of any sort ever has. [Please, folks, don't keep claiming that's impossible without producing a single example.]) And he never made ending wars or moving the money a focus of his campaign.
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