BY MADELYN HOFFMAN
The good news is that, just before Christmas 2012, the U.S. Congress reached a deal to avoid automatic budget cuts across the board or “sequestration.” The bad news is that the U.S. Congress simply postponed the decision (once again) about reprioritizing federal spending, by delaying the putting off the decision for two more months.
This graphic breaks down President Obama’s proposed discretionary spending for fiscal year 2013.
However, we know that when President Obama and Congress make their decision, for better or for worse, it will impact our lives for many years to come. The future of our health, financial security, our children’s education, our global environment, in fact our entire quality of life, is at stake, as the debate over the national debt, the debt ceiling and military spending comes to a head. We must speak up now.
Here are some important facts which highlight the urgent need for us to take action on behalf of the generations to come:
Forty thousand people world-wide perish each day from poverty-related causes and pollution, including 25,000 children. This totals 14 million yearly, including 130,000 Americans. Meanwhile the world spends $1.7 trillion on its militaries annually. In 2013, the United States will spend approximately $700 billion, while Russia and China combined will spend $215 billion.
We can afford to reduce military spending and move money to humanitarian needs, especially since the Pentagon ended 2012 with $105 billion in unused funding waiting to be spent. This is not a joke. A total of $105.7 billion of unused and unobligated funds were sitting in a Pentagon bank account at the end of 2012.
According to the United Nations, the cost to effectively end hunger and extreme poverty worldwide is $195 billion annually. This is 11 percent of the world’s military expenditures. Surely, nations can transfer 11 percent of their annual military expenditures to saving lives. But more is needed to ensure a sustainable world.
We must expand and not cut funding for infrastructure, education, research, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and emergency disaster relief. This can be done by transferring another 14 percent of our military budget to these programs to help ensure a healthier and safer future.
The U.S. military budget accounts for 57 percent of discretionary spending in 2013. By contrast, such vital programs such as education, health, veterans’ benefits and energy and the environment will be allocated 6 percent or less. (See pie chart.)
Members of Congress, including both Republicans and Democrats, signed a letter in December 2012 urging President Obama and congressional leaders to include substantial defense savings in the budget. U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett was one of the co-signers of this letter, showing that support for cutting the Pentagon budget extends from more progressive members of Congress to more conservative.
Our nation is at one of the most critical turning points in its history. The outcome of the budget debates will determine whether or not the United States lives up to its ideals in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. People’s lives and health are also at stake. We ask you to take a few minutes to:
Call your two senators and representative at the Capitol switchboard, 202-224-3121. Tell them that we need to save the lives of the 14 million people, who perish each year from poverty and pollution, and that this number includes 130,000 Americans. Ask them to transfer 25 percent of the military budget to humanitarian, environmental, educational and infrastructure needs.
If you do not know the names of your senators and representative, give the operator your state and zip code, and you will be connected. Then call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111 to do the same.
Sign the “Jobs Not War” petition that can be found at www.jobs-not-wars.org.
As previously mentioned, two dozen members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, signed a letter urging President Obama and congressional leaders to include substantial defense savings in the budget. Contact your two senators and representative and ask them to support that approach to adopting a new budget.
This year, Inauguration Day and the day we observe Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday both fell on Monday. Let us heed Dr. King’s warnings about our nation, its bloated military budget and reliance on violence to solve its problems and experience a “true revolution of values.”
When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered…. A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war. “This way of settling differences is not just…. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The author is executive director of New Jersey Peace Action, based in Bloomfield. David Mortensen, chairman of August 9 Saving Lives Task Force, an NJPA partner, assisted.