By popular demand in response to a lengthy blog on war-to-peace economic conversion, here's the attention-span-adjusted introductory version.
Our main industry is weapons. The U.S. is far and away the world's leading exporter of weapons. We fight wars with and against weapons we've produced. Our largest public expense, eating up over half of every tax dollar, is also weapons and wars -- including wars in which we fund both sides, as in Afghanistan where our payoffs are the largest source of income for the Taliban.
In addition to all the non-economic negative consequences of our wars, wars drain our economy. Even domestic spending on the military machine hurts the economy in that it drains public resources that could have produced many more jobs and better paying jobs if invested elsewhere.
Yet we cannot throw those employed by the war machine out of work. Instead, we need to convert the factories making unnecessary and unhelpful weapons into factories making trains and solar panels and other useful products. We need economic conversion, something written about extensively during the better part of the last century by Seymour Melman. Melman helped draft legislation that was introduced into Congress for years but never passed.
HR 441, which had 53 cosponsors in the 102nd Congress, would have established a council to develop plans for conversion of some portion of the military economy to a peacetime economy. This would have involved taking steps to encourage conversion and to ensure employment for workers whose jobs were lost, and investment for communities where industry was lost.
As Washington has grown obsessed with the deficit, the economy has collapsed, and some of the stupidest wars we've ever seen (and that's saying something) have broken records for duration, a movement has formed to encourage the shifting of our resources from war to peace. For links and resources, see http://defundwar.org
War as a money-making business has benefitted from the ever-growing investment in war, its privatization, the growth of the "nation-building" or "reconstruction" industry, and the legalization of election spending. As with any important issue in Washington, everyone pointing out that this one will be nearly impossible to solve without cleaning the money out of the system is perfectly right. Groups working on that include these: http://movetoamend.org and http://freespeechforpeople.org
We'll also need a decent communications system, an end to complete party dominance of party members, verifiable elections, and all kinds of other reforms. But we have to push on multiple fronts, and we have to have a vision of what we want to achieve. This includes having an answer to why we would dare suggest cutting back in the one area where our economy is booming.
Conversion is the way. Get involved: http://defundwar.org