Washington, DC - Representatives from a broad coalition including over a hundred peace, anti-hunger, anti-poverty, environmental and community groups called upon Congressional leaders Tuesday to increase funding for a wide range of domestic programs by cutting runaway, dangerous military spending by 25 to 50%. In addition to a letter, the groups also delivered petitions signed by thousands of individuals.
The proposed Budget for People-Peace-Planet would use the savings from the military cuts to :
- Adequately fund critical social needs, including food stamps, Social Security, improved and expanded Medicare for all, and public education including college,
·- Create a full employment public jobs program to jump start the green economy (a Green New Deal),
- Rebuild vital infrastructure.
Groups initiating the campaign include the Backbone Campaign; Coalition Against Nukes; Code Pink; Fellowship of Reconciliation, Freepress.org; Hunger Action Network of NYS; Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space; Green Shadow Cabinet; Green Party of NY; Hip Hop Congress; Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution; No FEAR Coalition; Organic Consumers Association; Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign; PopularResistance.org; Progressive Democrats of America; Roots Action; and US Labor Against the War.
With Congress aiming for a budget resolution by December 13, as determined in the deal ending the government shutdown, the groups decided to use the December 10 International Human Rights Day to highlight their call. Pope Frances also called for a Global Day of Prayer on Tuesday for increased government action to end hunger. The recent and pending cuts in food stamps are strongly opposed by the groups.
Jill Stein, President of the Green Shadow Cabinet noted, “We have spent $5 trillion over the past decade on bloody military excess in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet there are no real gains for democracy, security or stability to show for it. It’s time to end runaway military spending and the aggressive foreign policy it creates. This policy is a colossal failure. It was rejected by the American people in September when we refused to allow the President or Congress to drag us into another disastrous war. Now we must refuse to be dragged into another disastrous war budget. It’s time to put our resources where we need them – including an emergency full-employment Green New Deal to jumpstart the Green economy, halt climate change and make wars for oil obsolete. This is within our reach right now if we insist on it.”
"One out of every two Americans is now in poverty or low income. 31% of Philadelphians rely on food stamps. We're not just hungry for food. We're are hungry for jobs, for homes, for schools, for the basic necessities of life. We are hungry for justice!" said Cheri Honkala of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign.
"Cutting the military budget in half would reduce it to where it was before 9/11 -- when it was way too high. The amount of money spent on the US military is a crime against humanity. It steals our children's future and it oppresses people across our planet. We shouldn't be cutting SNAP funds to feed our children and seniors while wasting tens of billions of dollars to build planes and tanks that often mothballed in desert parking lots as soon as they roll off the assembly line," said Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of the Hunger Action Network of NYS.
David Swanson, Campaign Coordinator, RootsAction.org noted, “It's called a defense department, but 90% of it is beyond what any other nation spends for defense, and in fact its purpose is offense -- sometimes justified as defending against distant imminent threats (although "imminent" has been redefined to mean theoretical and eventual). Cutting just 25% of U.S. military spending across all departments and redirecting those funds could transform health and well-being, sustainable energy, education, housing, or all of the above, at home and abroad. Actual foreign aid rather than "military aid" could make this nation the most beloved on earth for a far smaller expense than wars, and would save many times the number of lives that would be spared by ceasing to wage wars. We've got to stop shouting at each other to cut spending or raise spending and begin asking: spending on what?”
The groups initially met with staff of Congressmember John Conyers, a long time advocate for peace and full employment. They then headed over to the offices of Congressmember Ryan and Senator Murray, co-chairs of the budget resolution committee. News reports indicate that they are working a deal to restore higher Pentagon spending by reducing the cuts required by sequestration over the next two years.
Consuming more than half of all discretionary federal spending, the US military budget is roughly equal to the rest of the world combined. The groups charge that the military budget has become primarily corporate welfare, waste, and runaway dangerous spending - with high levels of graft, overhead, outside consultants, and duplicative and unnecessary weapon systems. The groups outlined ten ways that military spending should be cut. Critics charged that he military budget, estimated to run between $650 billion to more than a trillion dollars, has little to do with actually protecting America from security threats.. (greenshadowcabinet.us/statements/10-ways-cut-military-budget-25-50)
A hundred billion dollars is spent to maintain more than one thousand military bases in 130 countries, including Europe, Japan and Korea. Much of the Pentagon spending is wasted. Rather than having an energy policy creating resource wars and climate chaos, the US should invest in renewable energy to create jobs, avert climate disaster, and make wars for oil obsolete.
The UN General Assembly proclaimed 10 December as Human Rights Day in 1950. In 2006 the UN focused on the issue of poverty, declaring the poverty prevails as the gravest human rights challenge in the world. Human rights also includes the right to be free from the threat of violence and war, and the poverty that war creates.
72 years after the nation was propelled into World War II by the attack on Pearl Harbor, the groups say it is time for the country to end its obsolete wartime budget - as it had done after every prior major conflict.
"More than 50 years ago. President Eisenhower warned us about threat posed by the Military Industrial Complex. This Complex has since grown into a monster, best described as the Military Industrial Fossil Fuel Nuclear State Terror and Surveillance Complex, a sinkhole for trillions of dollars a year that should rather serve human and nature’s needs, including providing climate security for our children and grandchildren. In face of the global threat of climate catastrophe we must implement a Green New Deal to make this goal possible. Demilitarize, solarize and shift spending to human needs!" said Prof. David Schwartzman, Professor Emeritus or Howard University and local climate justice activist.
The biggest challenge isn't convincing voters, it is convincing Congress to side with taxpayers rather than campaign contributors. A Feb. 25, 2013 poll by The Hill found that forty-nine percent of respondents would support cutting military spending, while just 23 percent said they would support slashing Social Security and Medicare.The Washington Post/ Bloomberg News Poll(October 6-9, 2011) found that 51% support reducing military spending in order to reduce the nation's budget deficit. Americans on average want to reduce military spending by18 percent,despite the barrage of propaganda to the contrary.