by Stephen McNeil
[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n Monday April 14, more than 33 local groups distributed more than 14,000 “Move the Money (from military to human needs)” brochures to BART riders throughout the Bay Area. Calling for riders to tweet or call their members of Congress to shift spending from war and nuclear weapons to human needs, the actions were part of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS).
Each spring, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute releases global military spending figures (in which the U.S. spends by far the most). While simply educating the public about our obscene military spending won’t bring change, the action created both a sense of community and movement.
Those not caught up in the morning rush to get to work took the fliers. Many times, community activists who distributed fliers at the end of the workday heard from BART passengers that they had already received the flier and read it.
Last year, only 15 BART stops were covered. This year, early organizing had over 100 activists covering 30 BART stations and three neighborhood areas. Bay Area New Priorities guided the cooperative actions.
Requested actions in the brochure included a call to members of Congress to cut military spending, a twitter share, and a QR code to the New Priorities Campaign principles. We included one panel on the proposed increase in nuclear weapons spending.
A noon press conference was enlivened with Chalkupy’s creation of a greedy Pentagon symbol grabbing all the money. Mayors Jean Quan of Oakland, Gayle McLaughlin of Richmond, and the City Council of San Pablo issued Proclamations in support of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending.
Women for Genuine Security’s Reverend Deborah Lee said, “It’s time for the war money to come home. Not be shifted to increased militarization in the Asia-Pacific. There are tremendous needs for that money to be spent on jobs, housing and education.”
“More than 17,000 nuclear weapons, most held by the U.S. and Russia, continue to pose an intolerable threat to humanity,” declared Jackie Cabasso, executive director of Oakland’s Western States Legal Foundation and North American Coordinator of Mayors for Peace. “Our government should be working in good faith to eliminate all nuclear arms, not stealing more of our tax dollars to modernize these weapons of mass destruction.”
Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s FY 2015 budget request seeks a 7 percent increase for nuclear weapons research and production programs.
With that, its FY 2015 budget request for maintenance and modernization of nuclear bombs and warheads in constant dollars exceeds the amount spent in 1985 for comparable work at the height of President Reagan’s surge in nuclear weapons spending, which was also the highest point of Cold War spending.
Time to Declare A New War on Poverty
Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan Speaks Out on the Global Day of Action Against Military Spending
I join in the bipartisan voices to ask President Obama and Congress to meet the urgent local needs of our communities. Several months ago, on the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, I led Alameda County to declare a New War on Poverty as persistent poverty continues to plague close to 200,000 residents of Alameda County.
In fact, California today, when you take into account the cost of living index, has the highest rate of poverty in the nation and the highest rate of poverty among seniors. 29% of our children are poor and there are 15 neighborhoods with child poverty rates above 50%.
Income inequality has never been worse with the richest 10% of Americans controlling 75% of the wealth.
The only weapons of war we need to expand are weapons in the War on Poverty! Congress must reinvest in human lives and not on increased militarization!
Over the past 6 years, over $15 billion has been cut from County safety net services. While 1 in 6 families now depend on food banks for their primary source of family food, the federal government has cut from the SNAP Program.
Budget cuts have resulted in the elimination of over 100,000 childcare slots statewide leaving many women with no choice but to stay at home and endure economic loss. Statewide, over one million jobs were lost during the recession.
It is time to place priorities using our precious tax dollars on getting people back to work, funding early care and education and providing food security to Alameda County residents. $10 billion of federal money is enough to create 1.5 million high quality subsidized child care slots. $100 billion would create 1.2 million living wage jobs.
The amount needed to enhance these programs pales in comparison to the $682 billion currently spent in the U.S. on the military.
The Pentagon’s Hidden Slush Fund
by Mary Zerkel
[dropcap]C[/dropcap]hildren of my daughter’s generation have spent their entire lifetime in a country at war. She is just about to turn 12. She was born into an era of war that she and her peers rarely hear about, but the longest war in U.S. history is quietly affecting their lives and future.
Our entire country has been frozen in a brutal cycle of human and economic loss, with more than 6,000 U.S. soldiers killed in both Iraq and Afghanistan and trillions of dollars spent on endless war.
But spring may finally be emerging. March 2014 marked the first month in over 12 years that there were zero U.S. casualties among troops engaging in conflict — which should certainly be looked upon as a milestone. We have been drawing down our troops from Afghanistan and looking toward most of the troops coming home by year’s end.
It seems we could now begin to move forward into a new era focused on a truer version of security, one that addresses what we need to survive and even prosper: investments in health, education, and other social programs that have been starved during this cold season of war spending. Sadly, that seems to be far off on the horizon. The president’s FY2015 budget proposal has taxpayers spending $549 billion for military programs, a 5 percent increase over last year — that’s 57 percent of our federal discretionary dollars.
And that’s not all. You might be shocked that this investment of over half a trillion dollars in military spending doesn’t include war activities — and that war spending is also going up while the war is winding down. War spending is part of a separate budget known as the “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO) account. This budget is not subject to spending caps put in place by the sequestration process and has become a convenient slush fund for the Pentagon.
In fact, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, in the FY2014 budget, the Pentagon moved $20 billion in operations and maintenance costs from its base budget to the war budget. On top of that, Congress added another $9.6 billion of base spending on salaries and benefits to the OCO. This allows the Department of Defense to avoid cutting wasteful pet projects such as the failed F-35, because they have transferred essential base costs to this uncapped account. While this budget gimmickry goes on, urgent needs at home go unaddressed, and the debt the next generation must pay for wars waged “off budget” mounts.
By the end of this year, most of our troops will be home from Afghanistan after more than a decade of war. So why is war funding going up? Our country must switch its priorities to move the money from waging wars to addressing pressing human needs.
This tax day, April 15, a diverse group of organizations mobilized around the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS)/US Tax Day, and asked Congress to get rid of the Pentagon slush fund in the OCO. With the United States spending more on the military than the next 13 biggest spenders worldwide combined, worried handwringing from the Pentagon and Congress about cuts seems disingenuous, to say the least.
On tax day, I made visits on Capitol Hill with my daughter and 66 other young people from around the country who spoke out about the disinvestment that their generation has been experiencing over the last 13 years of war. They want and desperately need sustainable schools, up-to-date educational materials, after-school programs, food stamps for those in need, affordable college tuition, community centers and affordable housing — not more wasteful Pentagon spending.
Join us. Tell Congress to end the Pentagon slush fund within the OCO account. This tax day, let’s turn the heat up and melt this slush fund away so we can help this generation and their communities bloom, grow and thrive.
Mary Zerkel is co-coordinator of the Wage Peace program of the AFSC. Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.