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MIC at 50, Charlottesville – FEDERAL BUDGET ACTIVITY REMARKS
By Lisa Savage
Donald Rumsfeld said in an interview last week: "The Department of Defense is not what's causing the debt and the deficit. It's the entitlement programs. If we make that mistake, we're doomed to suffer another attack of some kind, and our intelligence will be less strong and less effective."
And when I met with Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, an ostensibly very progressive Democrat early in her freshman term of office, I told her that her constituents wanted her to cut military spending and bring the war dollars home. But she said it wasn't that easy. Once she got to Washington “they” asked her, “What do you want to do, put 3,000 people out of work your first term in office?” This made reference to the largest employer in the state, Bath Iron Works, which has contracts to build the Aegis destroyers that the Navy hopes will be docked on little Jeju Island off the coast of China that Ann Wright spoke of last night.
And of course I told the Congresswoman that studies showed more jobs would be generated by investment in nearly any sector of the economy than “defense” contracting. And she said that is why it's so important to pass an energy bill, which would have to happen before we could start on conversion of BIW. And as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has voted “ought to pass” on every Defense Authorization bill since our conversation.
So this is what we're up against.
But the tide is turning as the economic standing of the average family in the U.S. Continues its steady downward slide. This week also saw the announcement of census data showing 1 in 6 people in the empire of the militaryindustrial-congressional-media complex live in poverty. 1 in 5 children do. And this metric sets the bar very low when defining what poverty: a family of four living on less than $22k per year. The actual levels of people barely scraping to get by are even higher.
A mobile VA clinic closing in our neck of the woods afforded a good opportunity for my husband, Mark Roman, to talk to people about the misplaced priorities of our federal budget. The VA announced they would close the remote rural clinic, causing hundreds of elderly vets to travel another 5 hours or so to receive routine health care in Augusta, in order to save between $100 and $200,000. In other words, four minutes of the war in Afghanistan would fund the clinic for a year.
Good news, we won that round: the VA reversed its decision after a heated public meeting widely covered by even the mainstream press.
And there have been other wins: the US Conference of Mayors, as Clare Hanrahan mentioned yesterday at the podium, passed the first anti-war resolution since 1971 last summer, largely through the efforts of Codepink and allies.
Various surveys bolster our claim that the people – not the war profiteers, but the people, the ones who are supposed to be represented in Washington DC -- don't agree with the current priorities of the Congress. The People's Budget was one such effort. In Maine we conducted a Penny Poll among 1500+ people in all sixteen counties. We set up outside supermarkets and post offices and asked people passing by to put ten pennies in various containers representing how they would spend the federal discretionary budget i.e. income taxes. These surveys produced similar results: the people desired primarily spending on education, health care, and veterans benefits (which includes a lot of education and health care, too), with military spending at or near last place.
And each new federal budget proposal out of the White House and spending bill out of Congress moves the U.S. further from these priorities. We are now at 57% of the discretionary federal budget going toward the military, and that does not count the Veterans' Administration.
Thank goodness for our friends who crunch the numbers and offer us the tools to make a compelling case accurately. Many groups have good resources on this including the WILPF and the AFSC which makes a handy bar chart brochure that folds out and that we used at the Penny Poll after people had spent their ten cents.
The National Priorities Project has a website with Trade Offs for many areas of the federal budget, including Pentagon spending, and their linked page with the ever up ticking counters of the cost of war in Iraq and Afghanistan now offers new tools developed in time for the tenth anniversary of the endless war on terror.
Another good resource for data is the The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities by Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier
at the Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute University of Massachusetts, Amherst first published in 2007 and revised in 2009.
It uses an economic model to project the number of jobs generated by investment in various sectors of the economy. The model showed that $1 billion invested in any other sector produced more jobs than the same investment in defense. Simply giving tax cuts that people would then spend on good and services produced 26% more jobs, while building in the mass transit sector – specifically, construction of light rail components – produced 131% more jobs. And these are real, full time jobs with benefits.
I used those figures to develop the War $$ Home Conversion Charlottesville activity we're going to do today. A template for the game will be available online for you to modify it and use it in your community as a way to get people to really take a look at our misplaced national priorities so that they, too, can join in the demand to bring our war dollars home.
Link to Bring Our War $$ Home GAME proposal where you can give feedback http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MYNV9RY
Maine Bring Our War $$ Home Campaign bringourwardollarshome.org
National Campaign: CODEPink.org, then Issues, then Bring Our War $$ Home
National Priorities Project on federal budget categories http://nationalpriorities.org/en/tools/tradeoffs
wars in Iraq & Afghanistan costofwar.com
Robert Naiman “Why the Jobs Argument Against Military Cuts is Bogus” (published at Truthout.com) http://www.truth-out.org/why-jobs-argument-against-military-cuts-bogus/1313598273
Bombs & Budgets Curriculum Teaching Guide (by War Resisters' League et al.):
Phyllis Bennis, IPS “End Wars Fact Sheet” for Rebuild the Dream 3.moveon.org/pdfs/fact_sheet_end_wars.pdf