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Reflections on Peace for 2010

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As the 2010 begins, it is a good time to reflect upon how the first ten days of the last month of 2009. Those days were most memorable providing dramatic examples of the impact of the nation's current spending priorities on Bloomfield, New Jersey residents and people all around the world. Since its founding in 1957, the Bloomfield-based NJ Peace Action has pressured the U.S. Congress to divert at least a portion of the nation's huge military budget (over $500 billion in 2009) away from military spending and instead apply that money to programs that address community needs. That work remains as important as ever.

On Tuesday, December 1st, President Obama made his much anticipated speech pledging to send 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan. The U.S. Pentagon and the White House estimate that it will cost $1 million to station one soldier in Afghanistan for one year and $30 billion to implement this plan for a year. In all, according to the National Priorities Project, total funding for Afghanistan could exceed $325 billion in Fiscal Year 2010.

On Wednesday, December 2nd, President Obama hosted the Jobs and Economic Growth Forum, to discuss how to address an unemployment rate of approximately 10%. When the White House was asked whether it planned to seek funding to create a jobs program, their reply was "We don't want to do anything to increase the deficit."

On Friday, December 4th, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a slight decline for November in both the number of unemployed persons - 15.4 million - and the overall unemployment rate - 10.0 percent. However, these numbers are more than double what they were at the start of the recession exactly two years ago in December 2007. The number of unemployed persons was then 7.5 million, and the jobless rate was 4.9 percent.

Additionally, the November statistics showed little change among the major worker groups. Unemployment rates for adult men (10.5 percent), adult women (7.9 percent), teenagers (26.7 percent), whites (9.3 percent), blacks (15.6 percent), and Hispanics (12.7 percent) remained consistent but the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) rose by 293,000 to 5.9 million.

In one short week, the White House committed the nation to an additional $30 billion a year above and beyond the annual allocation for war in Afghanistan, then exhibited a conscience regarding the deficit by refusing to spend additional dollars on jobs creation, despite an admission that the rate will remain at around 10% through December 2010. What was wrong with this picture?

According to the National Priorities Project (www.nationalpriorities.org) taxpayers in Representative William Pascrell's Congressional District, of which Bloomfield is a part, will have paid a total of $3 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.

The same $3 billion could have provided:

272,129 People with Health Care for One Year OR

4,148,247 Homes with Renewable Electricity for One Year OR

50,604 Public Safety Officers for One year OR

39,375 Music and Arts Teachers for One Year OR

297,599 Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR

553,924 Students receiving Pell Grants of $5350 OR

11,780 Affordable Housing Units OR

970,904 Children with Health Care for One Year OR

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Madelyn Hoffman is the Executive Director of NJ Peace Action, based in Bloomfield, New Jersey. She has held that position since August 2000. Madelyn Hoffman traveled to Afghanistan with Global Exchange in June 2005 and has given dozens of (more...)
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