Bloomfield opinion: Whats wrong with this picture? |


The U.S. Congress insists on funding the Abrams tank at a price of almost half a billion dollars, even though the military says it no longer wants or needs it. Lawmakers in the district where the tanks are produced are afraid to cut its funding because of the jobs that would be lost.

President Obama wants money to “extend the life” of 400 B61 nuclear bombs, the oldest nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal, at $25 million per bomb, for a combined price tag of approximately $10.4 billion. The military admits that, in the time it will take to upgrade all 400 B61s, the bomb will become obsolete.

How can we justify spending billions of dollars on unwanted, unnecessary weapons of war when the automatic sequestration cuts already affect vital federal programs and state and local governments feel compelled to cut social programs as revenues from taxes continue to shrink?

These actions on the part of our elected federal officials undermine domestic economic recovery efforts. In addition, extending the life of 400 nuclear weapons sends the world mixed messages. The United States is threatening war against North Korea or Iran for either having or wanting a nuclear bomb. Instead of extending the life of old nuclear weapons, why not work toward what New Jersey Peace Action and the world supports: a nuclear weapons free/weapons of mass destruction free Middle East and world?

We can still stop this boondoggle with local political pressure. Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-R-11) chairs the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, which will decide soon whether or not to fund this project. It is incumbent on his constituents to call or write his office to counter those who would stand to profit from this project and say no.

We know that building tanks and nuclear weapons keeps people employed, something this struggling economy desperately needs. However, we need only look to Connecticut to see how one state is preparing for inevitable cuts to the Pentagon budget.

On May 1, the Connecticut State Senate passed State Bill 619, creating a “Futures Commission” to find ways to keep manufacturing jobs in Connecticut as the Pentagon budget begins to be reduced.

State Sen. Harp, sponsor of the bill, said, “The proposed Futures Commission will set up a framework that allows us to convert many of our military related jobs and infrastructure into non-military industries. If we want to take advantage of the green economy that the Obama Administration is pushing, we need to have the infrastructure and trained workers in our state to do so.”

According to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Research, “This bill reactivates a dormant economic development advisory commission… and broadens its charge to include policies encouraging defense contractors and subcontractors to engage in environmentally sustainable and civilian product manufacturing.”

Support from the AFL-CIO State Federation and the Machinists Union helped this bill pass the Senate. It awaits a vote in the Assembly.

The Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, the world’s largest telecommunications union representing 700,000 workers in both private and public sectors, passed a national resolution on the economy and the need to redirect funding from the Pentagon and wars to fund jobs and human services.

The resolution reads, in part: “Congress and the President are embroiled in a continuing battle over spending priorities that has already resulted this year in $42 billion in cuts to vital domestic programs. These automatic spending cuts, known as ‘sequestration,’ have slashed funding for job training, education, housing, environmental protection, medical research, air traffic controllers, food safety, public safety, and other essential services. If Congress does not act, these automatic spending cuts are projected to reduce investments in vital public programs by $109 billion every year through 2021….

“Federal budget cuts will reverse our already fragile, jobless recovery. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, sequestration will reduce U.S. economic output by $7.9 billion in 2013 and result in the loss of 1 million jobs throughout the economy over the next two years.

“Since 2001, the Pentagon budget has increased by 50 percent, growing nearly twice as fast as domestic spending to $700 billion a year, and accounting for 57 percent of all federal discretionary spending…. CWA will educate our members and join with our allies to support policies that promote jobs not wars.”

NJPA and our allies continue to organize to change national spending priorities and to “Move the Money” from the Pentagon budget to fund jobs, human needs and diplomacy. At the same time, we must insure that workers, their families and communities who have depended on Pentagon contracts for good paying jobs are supported in the transition to producing what we need in our communities.

With labor and community advocates working together, we can paint a new picture of sustainability and peace.

The writer is executive director of New Jersey Peace Action, based in Bloomfield.

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