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Feed the People, not the Pentagon, on Dec. 13

By       Message Mark Dunlea     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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Feed the People, not the Pentagon, on Dec. 13

"Do we want to feed people hungry people or feed the weapons industry? It's critical to show that we, as a people, choose food, education and green energy over bombs," said Medea Benjamin of Code Pink.

That is the choice that Congress has to make on December 13 as part of the budget resolution process agreed to to end the recent shutdown of the federal government. Right now, Congress plans to feed the Pentagon, focusing on how to reduce the $50 billion cut in Pentagon spending mandated under sequestration - out of a budget that runs between $650 billion and a trillion, depending on how and what you count.

Peace, human service, and community groups have launched a campaign to call upon Congress to enact deep cuts in the military budget (at least 25% to 50%) as part of the December 13 resolution. Groups initiating the campaign include the Backbone Campaign ; Coalition Against Nukes ; Code Pink ; Fellowship of Reconciliation , ; Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space ; Green Shadow Cabinet ; Hip Hop Congress ; Hunger Action Network of NYS; Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution ; No FEAR Coalition ; Organic Consumers Association ; Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign ; ; and Roots Action . (Here is the open letter).

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The group wants Congress to focus on providing jobs for the 25 million plus who need them. Other spending priorities include:

- Adequately funding critical social needs, including food stamps, Social Security, improved and expanded Medicare for all, and public education including college,

-- Creating a full employment public jobs program to jump start the green economy (a Green New Deal) - making wars for oil obsolete and rescuing our climate future. We need to ramp up investment in clean renewable energy to $300 billion annually. and,

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- Rebuilding vital infrastructure.

Jill Stein, Green Shadow Cabinet president, noted, "After $5 trillion and a decade spent on bloody military excess, with no real gains for democracy, security or stability - it's time to put these resources where we need them, including an emergency full-employment program to jumpstart the Green economy, halt climate change and make wars for oil obsolete."

On December 7, we will observe the 72 nd anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor which propelled the United States into WWII. Before WWII, the country demilitarized and sent the troops home after every war. This time, the U.S. decided to create a permanent army, transitioning into the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the threat to capitalism. President Eisenhower, the former chief of the Allied forces, famously warned America to guard against giving allowing the military-industrial complex to gain too much power and money as a threat to our democracy.

It is time for Congress to end America's constant war after WWII and demilitarize, re-investing the hundreds of billions of dollars in savings into rebuilding America. Putting people back to work - like FDR did with the WPA public jobs program during the Great Depression.

As usual, the biggest challenge isn't convincing voters, it is convincing Congress to side with taxpayers rather than campaign contributors. A Feb. 25, 2013 poll by The Hill found that forty-nine percent of respondents would support cutting military spending, while just 23 percent said they would support slashing Social Security and Medicare. The Washington Post/ Bloomberg News Poll ( October 6-9, 2011) found that 51% support reducing military spending in order to reduce the nation's budget deficit. Americans on average want to reduce military spending by 18 percent .

Cutting the military budget in half would reduce it to where it was before 9/11 -- when it was way too high.  The amount of money spent on the US military is a crime against humanity. It steals our children's future and it oppresses people across our planet. We spend almost as much on the military as the rest of the world combined -- and most of the other big military spenders are our allies. Our military spending is six times that of China -- though their population is three times as big.

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Ralph Nader has become one of the most vocal critics of the enormous military budget. " The end of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the move of much of our manufacturing to a beckoning China raises the question -- since we no longer have major adversaries, why is the overall military budget larger than ever -- taking over half the discretionary expenditures of the federal government? Our country needs to rollback the Empire, really cut the so-called defense budget and apply those monies to repairing and rebuilding our public works with good paying green jobs everywhere that cannot be exported."

There are many ways to cut military spending. The campaign has outlined 10 key areas.

Fraud, waste and abuse is rampant in the military. More savings are possible if we changed the purpose of military spending from world domination to the traditional position of defending our national borders. Even greater savings would be possible if we adopted a cooperative approach based on mutual security and respect and worldwide improvements in quality of life. Nuclear disarmament would save $60 billion plus annually -- and make the world a much safer place.

Ever wonder why the U.S. spends tens of billions of our tax dollars to continue build tanks and planes that the generals don't want, that end up being mothballed on parking lots in the deserts because there is no need for them? Because military contractors make sure to spend tax dollars in every Congressional district in the country.

There were numerous examples of war profiteering involving billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan by firms such as Halliburton and Blackwater/XE/KBR. Congress turned a blind eye.

The military budget is so out of control and government oversight is so lax that the federal government has given up trying to audit it. There was an effort late in the Clinton administration to start reconciling transactions with documentation in the Department of Defense. They audited $7 trillion in transactions and found that they could not justify $2.3 trillion of it.

We build weapons to fight long ago wars that will never happen again. We continue to build weapons system because contractors make money building them. Various armed services waste tens of billions arming themselves with competing and duplicative copies of the same weapons (e.g., Joint Striker Fighter jets). The Pentagon gets rid of tens of billions of "surplus equipment", often in new condition, for pennies on the dollar, while spending enormous amount to replace the equipment.

Cutting Pentagon overhead for its back-office bureaucracy to the level of the private industry average of 25% would save roughly $80 billion a year. The largest government domestic programs--Social Security and Medicare--get by with overhead costs in the single-digits

The traditional American approach to national security was defending our borders. With oceans being two of our borders, and two allies (Canada and Mexico) being the other borders, US is one of the safest countries in the world in terms of external military threats. (And we do not need to waste money or violate human rights by militarizing our borders). The annual cost of our 1,100 overseas bases in over 130 countries  is over $100 billion.  Stop Using our military to protect oil companies and multinational corporations.

Even some of Ronald Reagan's advisers believe that even the Democrats should be able to protect the country for $350 billion. Cutting to that level would be a good initial target. By the way, we spend almost as much on the military as the rest of the world combined.

When we talk about cutting the military, we are not talking about Veteran's benefits or soldier's pay. Our treatment of veterans is scandalous.

Rather than debating how to pressure Iran to say they will never possess nuclear weapons, it is time for the U.S. to give up its own. Nuclear weapons should be outlawed just as we have outlawed (most) chemical weapons. There is no sane military strategy that supports the use of nuclear weapons in the 2lst century.  We waste $60 billion plus annually on our nuclear arsenal. Cutting our massive nuclear arsenal in half would save $30 billion.

December 10 is International Human Rights Day. People have a right to be free from the threat and horrors of war and armed conflict. The groups plan to turn in their letter and petitions to Congress then. They are looking for groups and individuals to join them. ( Sign the petition here .)

Reverend Kristin Stoneking, Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation added, "Money in itself is morally neutral, but what we do with money has ultimate moral significance. Our runaway military spending  impairs and diminishes the very soul of our country as we ignore needs for food, jobs and health care among our citizens, and perpetuate a culture of violence abroad. Redirecting millions away from exporting violence and toward creating a culture of peace at home by responding to the basic needs of Americans is not only wise but right."


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President of Green Education and Legal Fund Inc. Executive Director of Hunger Action Network. Author of Madame President: The Unauthorized Biography of the First Green Party President. Co

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