Each April 15th tax day, the United States funds its priorities. In our democracy we are encouraged and want to believe that our government will make the best choices as it spends our money. Choices that will make for a better tomorrow. As Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine states, “budgets are moral documents”. They speak volumes to our priorities and to who we are as a people and how we are perceived the world over. These budgets fund everything from federal school lunch and environmental protection to nuclear weapons programs. At a time when growing numbers are concerned with the slow death of the planet from the challenge of climate change, we often fail to confront or acknowledge the ever present immediate threat of nuclear catastrophe and possible extinction from nuclear war. Is this inertia due to a sense of hopelessness or to a lack of awareness of the scope of the problem?
Public opinion now shows that 73% of Americans favor elimination of nuclear weapons entirely. So what is the cost to our American communities of these weapons systems and their legacy? Unfortunately in our government of the people, by the people and for the people, this funding has lost the transparency of public scrutiny either by design or oversight in a virtual budgetary and bureaucratic “shell game”. The dollar amount has become a number that is difficult to be gleaned from a review of our budget as components are buried under headings as diverse as the Department of Defense to the Department of Energy and others.
In an effort to raise awareness at local and national levels to the costs of nuclear weapons programs and activities a grassroots organization called Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions (www.c-p-r.net) has taken on the challenge of identifying the cost in “treasure” or current ’08 Federal Tax dollars to our communities. Firmly believing that informed decisions about the future can only be made if people are made aware of the issues.
In the most comprehensive review of this matter since the ’1998 book “Atomic Audit – the Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940” by Steven Schwartz, Steven Kosiak, Vice President of Budget Studies for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis (www.csbaonline.org) published his work on “Spending on U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces” in ‘2006. His analysis concludes that current annual U.S. funding for nuclear-related forces and activities amounts to $54 Billion. Combining data from this report with resources from the U.S. Census ’06 population estimates, and the ’2008 U.S. Federal Budget, the current U.S. per capita nuclear expenditure is calculated at $180.36 based on national per capita income of $21,587. Each community calculation is then modified based on it’s variance from the national income data.
These nuclear weapons program expenditures impact every community in our nation, richest to poorest – from the lost opportunities of spending these dollars on other priorities to the constant threat faced by the very existence of these weapon systems. How is the people’s money being spent? Examples span from Ventura County, California at $164+ million to Los Angeles Counties $1.7 billion. Other examples include New York City at $1.6 billion to Buffalo County, South Dakota the nation’s poorest county with population of 2,109 and a per capita income of $5,213 at $91,000. Do these dollars reflect our priorities and vision of the future? Are we more secure as a result? WHAT CAN WE DO?
This year, 2008 provides an opportunity to begin a real change in direction of nuclear policy. From the changing public opinion to the embracing of a nuclear weapons free world by conservative leaders including Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, William Perry, and Sam Nunn of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (www.nti.org) to U.S. presidential elections and a changing of the leadership in 4 out of the 5 original nuclear states from 2007 – 2010, the future is before us. We must lead by example. The means truly are the ends in the making, or as Martin Luther King stated: “We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.” We invite all to join us in this effort. Support the efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons by endorsing the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World at www.nuclearweaponsfree.org . Individuals or communities wishing to identify their nuclear “contribution” are encouraged to contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted by Robert F. Dodge, M.D.
Co- chairman, Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions (www.c-p-r.net)
Board, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles (www.psrla.org)