The U.S. Has a Representative Government: The Conference of Mayors
Congress can't break 10 percent approval. Obama's arms shipments to Syria just crack 10 percent, with 11 percent approval. Over 80 percent of Americans in more polls than I can count say over and over again that the government is broken and does not represent us. But when the mayors of the cities of the United States get together nationally one begins to see positions taken, at least rhetorically, that resemble government of, by, or for the people.
On Monday the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously adopted a resolution "CALLING FOR U.S. LEADERSHIP IN GLOBAL ELIMINATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND REDIRECTION OF MILITARY SPENDING TO DOMESTIC NEEDS."
Cities can follow the leads of their mayors and pass similar resolutions. A bill in Congress (HR 1650) at least partially meets the proposals in the resolution, and cities could ask their representatives in the U.S. House to sign onto it. The state of Connecticut this month created a commission to work for the conversion of Connecticut's economy away from militarism and toward peaceful manufacturing jobs. Cities could create such commissions or urge their states to do so. It would be good to see such steps follow from Monday's admirable rhetoric. The resolution, as passed, included this:
"BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the President and Congress to reduce funding for modernization of nuclear weapons systems, to reduce nuclear weapons spending to the minimum necessary to assure the safety and security of the existing weapons as they await disablement and dismantlement, and redirect those funds to meet the urgent needs of cities; and
"BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the President and Congress to reduce military spending and to reinvest those funds in programs to address the dramatic increase in poverty and inequality in our country; take emergency measures to repair the social safety net and protect Social Security and Medicare; create jobs, retrain displaced workers, including military contractors, rebuild deteriorating physical infrastructure, invest in new technologies for a sustainable energy future, and aid local government to restore and maintain vital public services, reemploying teachers, police, firefighters and other workers."
The bill passed this month by the Connecticut legislature and signed by the Governor creates a commission to develop a plan for, among other things:
"the diversification or conversion of defense-related industries with an emphasis on encouraging environmentally-sustainable and civilian product manufacturing. On or before December 1, 2014, the commission shall submit such report to the Governor and, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a, to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to commerce."
The commission "shall Advise the General Assembly and the Department of Economic and Community Development on issues relating to the diversification or conversion of defense-related industries" among other things.
Read the full text, inlcuding the make-up of the commission, which is to include labor union and peace movement representatives. Imagine Congress creating something like that!
But Congress has, at least created this: a bill with a non-voting sponsor and no cosponsors, H.R.1650, the Nuclear Weapons Abolition and Economic and Energy Conversion Act of 2013, a bill introduced over and over again by Washington D.C.'s representative in Congress, following action by the city council of D.C. The key part of the bill reads:
(a) In General- The United States Government shall--
(1) provide leadership to negotiate and enter into a multilateral treaty or other international agreement by the date that is three years after the date of the enactment of this Act that provides for--
(A) the dismantlement and elimination of all nuclear weapons in every country by not later than 2020; and
(B) strict and effective international control of such dismantlement and elimination;
(2) redirect resources that are being used for nuclear weapons programs to use--
(A) in converting all nuclear weapons industry employees, processes, plants, and programs smoothly to constructive, ecologically beneficial peacetime activities, including strict control of all fissile material and radioactive waste, during the period in which nuclear weapons must be dismantled and eliminated pursuant to the treaty or other international agreement described in paragraph (1); and
(B) in addressing human and infrastructure needs, including development and deployment of sustainable carbon-free and nuclear-free energy sources, health care, housing, education, agriculture, and environmental restoration, including long-term radioactive waste monitoring;
(3) undertake vigorous, good-faith efforts to eliminate war, armed conflict, and all military operations; and
(4) actively promote policies to induce all other countries to join in the commitments described in this subsection to create a more peaceful and secure world.
(b) Effective Date- Subsection (a)(2) shall take effect on the date on which the President certifies to Congress that all countries possessing nuclear weapons have--
(1) eliminated such weapons; or
(2) begun such elimination under established legal requirements comparable to those described in subsection (a).
Not a bad bill to pass, if we had anyone representing us.