Move the Money, Crush the Slush Fund

May 3, 2014

Over 70 U.S. events and actions were held to mark Tax Day and the 4th Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS).  As you probably know, Peace Action was the US coordinator of GDAMS events for the 2nd year running.

With the 2014 elections just six months away, PAEF’s campaign to Move the Money from the Pentagon to our communities has never been more prominent in the national discourse.

Members of both parties in Congress are exploring military cuts as part of efforts to reduce deficits.  Predictably, vested interests are working overtime to preserve, and even increase where possible, the current, historically high, levels of military spending.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported the costs of major weapons acquisitions, like the F-35, have risen $500 billion above their orignial projected costs.  Congress loudly denounce cost overruns even as they look for ways to increase Pentagon funding.

Peace Action has renewed its fight against one of the ways the Pentagon hopes will permit it to restore funding for items left out – for the moment – to keep the Pentagon under budget control limits.  For example, Congress could allow the Pentagon to use funds from the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), meant to fund military operations in Afghanistan, to restore eight F-35’s left out of the President’s budget.  The Pentagon has used the OCO as a slush fund to reduce Pentagon cuts this year to just $3.5 billion dollars while domestic spending was slashed by $15 billion – not exactly the shared pain sequestration was supposed to deliver.

Working with our allies, Peace Action is circulating a sign-on letter to Members of Congress from a host of organizations working in our Move the Money coalitions reminding them that: “According to the Pentagon, from FY 2013 to FY 2014, approximately 39 percent fewer personnel will be deployed to Afghanistan (with none in Iraq). Yet, in the FY 2014 omnibus spending bill, Defense Subcommittee funding in the OCO account will actually increase from FY 2013 to FY 2014.”

Call your Senators and Representative and tell them the Overseas Contingency Operations should not be used as a slush fund for runaway Pentagon spending.  Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.


Diplomacy advocate lectures congregation

September 26, 2013

The Island Now
Thursday, September 26, 2013
By Bill San Antonio

As the executive director of Peace Action, the nation’s largest grassroots disarmament organization, Kevin Martin said Tuesday he has seen firsthand the militarization of the United States’ foreign policy in the last decade.

But in his lecture at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation entitled “Endless War on Peace,” Martin said he was confident that America’s recent history of military strikes and occupations of nations seen as a threat to national security would evolve into a more diplomatic approach to foreign policy – particularly because of the recent diplomatic efforts to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons and the start of talks with Iran.

“At a certain point, we’re just not going to buy that anymore,” Martin said. “We’re just not going to buy that there’s a terrorist at every corner of the globe.”

Martin began the lecture, which was sponsored by the Shelter Rock Forum, the Great Neck SANE/Peace Action and the Long Island Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives, by calling out the names of 11 nations — China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy, Brazil and South Korea – whose combined military budgets equals what the United States spends on its own military each year.

But for all its spending, Martin said the United States is ranked No. 99 on the Global Peace Index, tied with Papua New Guinea despite being known as the world’s last superpower.

“We can’t keep doing this, we can’t keep marauding around the world and trying to kill more terrorists than we create, because we will fail,” Martin said.

Martin said the U.S. spends approximately $600 billion each year on its military and $1 trillion on national security, and in the next 10 years will implement a $200 million arms refurbishment program.

“How do we have any credibility going to Iran or anyone else, saying they shouldn’t have weapons of mass destruction, shouldn’t have nuclear weapons, when we not only intend to keep ours, we intend to modernize them?” Martin said.

Martin also cited a University of Massachusetts study that said military spending is the worst way to create jobs and stimulate the economy, adding that the money America puts toward military spending could better serve the job market if it were used on education.

“Military spending does not help our economy in any way other than keep people employed,” Martin said. “If you can separate the nonsense about the economic benefits of military spending from the real security issues we have in this country, we can win that argument.”

Martin said the mainstream media has more recently played a role in more diplomatic measures in America’s foreign policy.

With Syria, Martin said the mainstream media took greater interest in covering the different angles toward President Obama’s recent request to Congress for a military strike on Syria after those who have been known to be pro-war were coming out against the strike.

Within a day or two, Martin said the media began covering what he called “better alternatives” to avoid the strike, such as sending supplies and weapons to those who are fighting off the Syrian army and rebel fighters who may have ties to terrorist organizations.

“That’s when I knew Obama was sunk, because he could try to scare us or try some fandango, but once better alternatives were out there, he lost control of the conversation,” Martin said.

Martin added that there could be a “spillover effect” from the diplomatic solution toward America’s approach to Syria that could impact future negotiations with Iran over the destabilization of its nuclear program.

“Now diplomacy seems like this limb we’ve learned to use again,” Martin said.

Martin said he does not think major arms manufacturers will continue to have a strong influence in lobbying the federal government into increased military spending, if better alternatives continue to present themselves in America’s foreign policy and people continue pushing for peace.

“If peace actually breaks out, you just can’t justify using such a huge percentage of our tax dollars on tanks and missiles and that $200 million over the next 10 years to refurbish our weapons,” Martin said. “You just can’t justify that anymore.”

If the United States opted for diplomacy more frequently, Martin said the short-term effect would be that other countries would fear and hate the United States less, though its history of invasions and military attacks would likely mean it would take longer for the world to “love us more.”

But the process of healing America’s reputation around the world starts with money coming out of the “war machine” and being put toward more “life-affirming functions,” and for people to “stand up for the values this country says its for” and be more vocal about a peaceful and diplomatic foreign policy, Martin said.

“We have hope, we have real solutions, we have better alternatives, we have better policies,” Martin said. “They have a lot of money and guns and weapons, but really all they have is fear.”


CT Passes Bill: to transition to a sustainable peace economy

May 23, 2013

BaltWIsolidarity2_26By Judith Le Blanc – Field Director, Peace Action

Congrats to the US Peace Council, the New Haven Peace Commission, No Nukes No War, the CT AFL-CIO and International Association of Machinists on the passage of the bill for a state commission on converting defense work to green jobs.

There is a push being made now to insure the Governor signs the recently passed bill into law. Peace Action sent the email below to our members in CT and hopes other national groups will do the same.

From a grassroots organizing perspective, the bill opens up many opportunities for CT organizers for public education and also pressing Congress to cut the Pentagon budget and address the impact on workers and our communities.

Miriam Pemberton from the Institute for Policy Studies drafted Defense Transition proposals for Congressional action.

SAVE THE DATE: June 20 at 8pm EST, USLAW and Peace Action will host a webinar on those proposals.

For those in other states, this bill is an excellent model for how we can begin to respond to the lay offs that have and will begin as the Pentagon budget is cut.

The Congress has its role to play as well. As cuts are made to the Pentagon budget, money should be moved to fund commissions, job development, job retraining and other support for workers and their communities to make the transition from military production to green, sustainable industries.

Military sector workers and their families should not bear the social cost of making the transition to a sustainable peace economy.  This commission is a step in the right direction.

Move the Money!

 

 Pass this message on!

   
Dear friend,

Congratulations! On May 14, the CT House followed the State Senate, in passing State Bill 619 creating aCommission on Connecticut’s Future to find ways to keep manufacturing jobs in CT and convert to green industries as the Pentagon budget begins to be reduced. The first in the nation!

Call your representative and thank them for protecting good paying, manufacturing jobs in our communities. 

The bill passed on a bipartisan 121-15 vote. The bill includes a provision for representatives from labor, environmental and peace organizations seats on the commission. An amendment was defeated which would have stripped the peace and environmental participation.

The “Dream Team” of labor and community groups worked together to get the bill introduced and passed. The team included the City of New Haven Peace Commission, US Peace Council, No Nukes No War, the CT AFL-CIO and International Association of Machinists worked.

Call Governor Dannel Mallory and ask him to sign State Bill 619 to establish the Commission on Connecticut’s Future.

Call Toll Free (800) 406-1527

The Congress has its role to play as well. As cuts are made to the Pentagon budget, that money should be moved to fund commissions, job retraining and support for workers and their communities to transition from military production to green, sustainable industries.

Move the Money!


How Do you Fix the Deficit? End the Wars, Tax the Rich! Great Move the Money Rally in Boston last Thursday!

May 20, 2013

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

One of the great benefits of my job is traveling the country and observing/supporting/learning from the outstanding work Peace Action affiliates, chapters and activists carry out every day of the year. Last week I was in Boston for a terrific rally protesting sequestration and budget cuts to human needs programs, and calling instead for cuts to the bloated Pentagon budget. Hats off to Massachusetts Peace Action and their allies in the Budget for All coalition (which organized the wonderful referendum of the same name last November that passed overwhelmingly everywhere around the state it appeared on the ballot). The rally was energetic, diverse (people of color, labor, education, housing and education advocates all spoke and turned out their members, as well as Peace Action and American Friends Service Committee) and militant yet welcoming. Also some great slogans and songs (including the one in the title of this post). Enjoy these photos and be inspired to organize for peace and justice in your community!

IMG00323-20130516-1215 (2)935799_466542026759335_1728389974_n264424_466914430055428_1624005668_n923521_466541363426068_1233990488_n[1]


Field Director Judith Le Blanc’s Letter on Pentagon Spending in the Washington Post

May 3, 2013

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/pentagon-cuts-can-work-to-our-advantage/2013/05/02/3b75f022-b11a-11e2-9fb1-62de9581c946_story.html

Letter to the editor

Pentagon cuts can work to our advantage

It’s neither a quandary nor a conundrum. It is an addiction.

The post-9/11 increase in defense contracting created an economy dependent on the Pentagon budget. Congress created the addiction. Now it’s time for it to wean the Pentagon by using the money cut from the defense budget to fund a transition to production for civilian use. It’s not a new idea. This has been done in the past.

We need the political will from liberals and conservatives alike to reduce the waste in the Pentagon budget in order to fund jobs in sectors that contribute to the economy for the long term.

The real conundrum: Will Congress move the money from weapons we no longer need to manufacturing that produces what we do need? Our military contractors, our communities and the federal budget need this transition from an addiction to military contracts to manufacturing to meet human needs.

Judith Le Blanc, New York

The writer is field director for Peace Action.


Our latest, published by The Hill, on the absurd nuclear weapons budget: Days of blank checks are over for the nuclear weapons establishment

April 26, 2013

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/296397-days-of-blank-checks-are-over-for-nuclear-weapons-establishment

By Kevin Martin, Peace Action and Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico – 04/26/13 11:20 AM ET

Many of America’s Cold War weapons are in the hands of one of its most obscure government agencies. It’s called the National Nuclear Security Administration, and it was the subject of a senate budget hearing this week. The agency’s obscurity to most taxpayers is exceeded only by its astonishing failure to acknowledge political and fiscal reality.

Two decades after the Cold War, the U.S. is reducing the number and the role of its nuclear weapons, and is committed to providing international leadership on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. Meanwhile, the federal budget is extremely tight; cuts are being proposed in all manner of government programs, including, unwisely, Social Security, Medicare and veterans’ benefits.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, apparently indifferent to federal belt-tightening, thinks it needs a big raise. Stuck in the Cold War, the hey-day of nuclear spending, the agency in charge of the nation’s nuclear weapons is calling for more spending in almost every category.

The nuclear weapons budget request is $7.87 billion, in real terms a 16.7 percent increase above last year’s levels, virtually unheard of in all other federal agencies given our nation’s fiscal constraints. That large increase is especially ironic given the agency’s chronic cost overruns and mismanagement in both construction projects and nuclear weapons programs. The agency also plans to increase its nuclear weapons budget to $9.29 billion by 2018, an 18 percent increase.

In a time when the U.S. nuclear arsenal is shrinking and the Obama administration seeks further mutual arms reductions with Russia, this overreach by the National Nuclear Security Administration is hard to understand. The nuclear weapons laboratories and production facilities have long enjoyed a privileged existence, thanks to powerful supporters in Congress, presidential administrations, and weapons corporations. Any large, powerful bureaucracy will naturally resist, vigorously, attempts to reduce its budget or weaken its clout.

But there seems to be something more here in nuclear overseers’ chutzpah in proposing lavish budget increases when the rest of the government, and many Americans, face harsh austerity.

The nuclear weapons establishment has, for decades, woven a cloak of secrecy around nuclear weapons technology. Nuclear insiders enjoyed a serious lack of accountability on how funds are spent and programs are run. “The nuclear priesthood” is a good shorthand for this dynamic, and one need not conjure visions of a bunch of Dr. Strangeloves running around our nuclear weapons laboratories to understand they fear their time is past, as it should be if we are to move toward a nuclear-weapons free world.

Nuclear administrators serve the country’s national security interests, not their own. This budget request is just a wish list; Congress, acting on behalf of we taxpayers, doesn’t have to fund any of it.

Congress needs to very carefully scrutinize the budget requests for exorbitant, controversial, and failing programs. The National Ignition Facility, Uranium Processing Facility and MOX (mixed oxide) fuel program are just a few examples of nuclear programs that are both mismanaged and unnecessary. Most Americans have never heard of these programs, yet American taxpayers will spend more than half a trillion dollars over the next decade on these and other nuclear capabilities that irrelevant in the 21st century.

NNSA and its managers won’t like congressional oversight or fiscal responsibility. They should remember that they work for us, and Americans would rather invest our tax dollars in education, health care, job creation, and local law enforcement – the people who protect us everyday, not the people who watch over Cold War relics. The nuclear priesthood’s blank check days are over.

Martin serves as executive director of Peace Action. 

Coghlan serves as executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/296397-days-of-blank-checks-are-over-for-nuclear-weapons-establishment#ixzz2RaSALJZe
Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook


That’s Where the Money Goes – Larry Wittner, Peace Action board member, on Huffington Post

April 17, 2013

Great piece on Huffington Post, as always, by SUNY-Albany emeritus professor of history and politics and Peace Action board member Larry Wittner, on U.S. and global military spending.

According to a report just released by the highly-respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), world military expenditures in 2012 totaled $1.75 trillion.

The report revealed that, as in recent decades, the world’s biggest military spender by far was the U.S. government, whose expenditures for war and preparations for war amounted to $682 billion — 39 percent of the global total. The United States spent more than four times as much on the military as China (the number two big spender) and more than seven times as much as Russia (which ranked third). Although the military expenditures of the United States dipped a bit in 2012, largely thanks to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, they remained 69 percent higher than in 2001.

U.S. military supremacy is even more evident when the U.S. military alliance system is brought into the picture, for the United States and its allies accounted for the vast bulk of world military spending in 2012. NATO members alone spent a trillion dollars on the military.

Thus, although studies have found that the United States ranks 17th among nations in education, 26th in infant mortality, and 37th in life expectancy and overall health, there is no doubt that it ranks first when it comes to war.

This Number 1 status might not carry much weight among Americans scavenging for food in garbage dumpsters, among Americans unable to afford medical care, or among Americans shivering in poorly heated homes. Even many Americans in the more comfortable middle class might be more concerned with how they are going to afford the skyrocketing costs of a college education, how they can get by with fewer teachers, firefighters, and police in their communities, and how their hospitals, parks, roads, bridges, and other public facilities can be maintained.

Of course, there is a direct connection between the massive level of U.S. military spending and belt-tightening austerity at home: most federal discretionary spending goes for war.

The Lockheed Martin Corporation’s new F-35 joint strike fighter plane provides a good example of the U.S. government’s warped priorities. It is estimated that this military weapons system will cost the U.S. government $1.5 trillion by the time of its completion. Does this Cold War-style warplane, designed for fighting enemies the U.S. government no longer faces, represent a good investment for Americans? After twelve years of production, costing $396 billion, the F-35 has exhibited numerous design and engineering flaws, has been grounded twice, and has never been flown in combat. Given the immense military advantage the United States already has over all other nations in the world, is this most expensive weapons system in world history really necessary? And aren’t there other, better things that Americans could be doing with their money?

Of course, the same is true for other countries. Is there really any justification for the nations of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America to be increasing their level of military spending –as they did in 2012 — while millions of their people live in dire poverty? Projections indicate that, by 2015, about a billion people around the world will be living on an income of about $1.25 per day. When, in desperation, they riot for bread, will the government officials of these nations, echoing Marie Antoinette, suggest that they eat the new warplanes and missiles?

President Dwight Eisenhower put it well in an address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors 60 years ago:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed … This world in arms is not spending money alone; it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children … This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

 

That sentiment persists. On April 15, 2013, people in 43 countries participated in a Global Day of Action on Military Spending, designed to call attention to the squandering of the world’s resources on war. Among these countries was the United States, where polls show that 58 percent of Americans favor major reductions in U.S. military spending.

How long will it take the governments of the United States and of other nations to catch up with them?

Lawrence Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is Working for Peace and Justice: Memoirs of an Activist Intellectual (University of Tennessee Press).


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