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
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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).


Move the Money Op-Ed in Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

March 7, 2013

Great job by Peace Action Wisconsin Program Director Mike Helbick, who got help on this from our friends at the Coalition for Human Needs.

Cuts Threaten Milwaukee, our Economy
By Mike Helbick
March 6, 2013

This year alone, Milwaukee taxpayers will contribute $695 million to the U.S. Department of Defense. That would be enough to provide Milwaukee with 10,700 elementary school teachers, 10,500 police officers or medical care for 96,400 veterans. Instead, Milwaukee’s hard-earned tax dollars are paying for foreign military interventions and ineffective weapons systems at a time when Milwaukee desperately needs these funds here at home.

The implications of this budget choice are even worse when you consider that money spent on domestic priorities such as education, health care, housing and clean energy creates more jobs than military spending. For example, when Congress spends $1 billion on the military, it creates 11,200 jobs, but when it spends the same amount on education, it creates 26,700 jobs.

So it’s easy to see why last September, Milwaukee’s Common Council unanimously adopted a “Move the Money” resolution calling for the United States to redirect federal spending from foreign military interventions to investing in programs to address critical domestic and urban needs. What’s difficult to understand is how last week Congress could make life even harder for Milwaukee residents.

On March 1, Congress allowed indiscriminate across-the-board cuts to go into effect. These cuts are harming thousands of Wisconsin residents. We may not see the results yet, but we will soon. Because of the cuts, people in our state will go without food, lose jobs and income and get pushed toward homelessness. The cuts are dangerous. They are also unnecessary. And they come on top of $1.9 trillion in spending cuts and interest savings that have already happened. Wisconsin has lost 8.3% of its federal funds since 2010. We can’t afford to lose more.

The U.S. Senate considered, but failed to pass, legislation to replace these cuts in February. The Democratic leadership offered a proposal that would prevent cuts to education, public health, nutrition and other vital services by replacing them with more gradual cuts to the Pentagon, ending some farm subsidies, setting a minimum tax for millionaires and closing other tax loopholes. This is a balanced, sensible approach to reducing the deficit that will protect Wisconsin’s economy and residents. It is supported by most Americans.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) voted for this pragmatic approach, but Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) did not.

While the March 1 cuts affect a broad range of services touching the lives of most Americans, many reductions will hit low-income people particularly hard. For example, according to a new report by the Coalition on Human Needs, 8,100 low-income young children and mothers in Wisconsin will lose access to nutritious food. An estimated 1,377 low-income families will lose rental housing vouchers – for most, that probably means they will lose their homes. Nationally, nearly 5 million people have been out of work at least six months, but unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed will be cut 9.4%. In Wisconsin, 900 children will lose their place in Head Start and 500 will lose the help they need to pay for quality child care. These cuts will slash education, meals for low-income seniors, mental health treatment, environmental cleanup, food safety protections and much more.

The cuts also will harm our fragile economy, eliminating 700,000 jobs nationwide just when the economy is finally beginning to recover.

Milwaukee will be hit even harder than the rest of Wisconsin. Because nearly one out of three Milwaukee residents lives below the poverty line ($23,550 for a family of four), Milwaukee has more residents in need of help with basic needs such as nutrition and housing, and less local funds to help meet their needs.

Pushing more families and seniors into poverty and reducing our investment in education even further is simply not necessary. Instead of this self-inflicted wound, we should reduce bloated, wasteful Pentagon spending and move the money we save to job creation, education, health care and other priorities.

We should ask millionaires and top corporations to pay more of their share. A 5.6% surtax on income over $1 million could raise more than $450 billion over 10 years, which would replace most of the next decade’s domestic cuts. Options to tax offshore profits of corporations would raise hundreds of billions more.

When the Common Council passed the “Move the Money” resolution, it called for our nation to change its priorities and put domestic challenges first. Congress needs to give the balanced approach a second chance, in order to prevent real harm to Wisconsin’s people and economy.

Mike Helbick is program director with Peace Action-Wisconsin. Email Mike@peaceactionwi.org


Action Alert: Call Congress, Tell them to Stop the Hype and Cut the Pork!

February 26, 2013

There is a lot of hype around the showdown over sequestration or the across the board cuts in the federal budget. The worst fear mongering is about the impact on the Pentagon budget.

 

The New York Times editorial today said, “Some of this is plainly hype. Both the generals and the civilians in the Pentagon know that some cuts are possible and that even under the sequester American security need not be compromised. The military has many resources, and in some respects it is over-resourced.”

 

Call Congress (202) 224-3121 and tell your representatives to stop the hype and save the programs we need by cutting the waste from the “over-resourced” Pentagon budget.

 

Urge our representatives to act because the public supports  balancing the budget on the back of reductions to the Pentagon budget rather than through cuts to programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

 

Our communities cannot afford cuts in “under-resourced” programs that are investments in our future: education, healthcare, infrastructure and green energy.

 

Call Congress at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to:

1. Support cutting the Pentagon budget by $1 trillion over 10 years.

2. Fund education, rebuild infrastructure and create green energy in order to rebuild our economy and our communities.

 

Significant cuts in the Pentagon budget, closing corporate tax loopholes and getting the rich to pay their fair share of taxes is the only way to break the cycle of hype and fear mongering. The time to act is now.

 

Call Congress (202) 224-3121

 

Power to the Peaceful,

Judith Le Blanc

Field Director

Peace Action

PS Join us at the February 27 actions to Pull the Pork from the Pentagon budget in your city or town. Find locations here.


Action Alert: Pull the Pork from the Pentagon Budget!

February 20, 2013

As the debate continues on the automatic spending cuts, the deficit, and the 2013 federal budget, it may seem like there is no way forward.

Over a trillion has already been cut in the last two years to community services programs in the federal discretionary budget. The idea of  “sequestration” making 50-50 cuts between domestic needs and the Pentagon is a rope-a-dope, at best!

Congress has a choice to make! Let’s start by pulling the pork from the Pentagon budget.

On February 27, we are joining USAction and others in cities and towns across the country, to tell Congress to Pull the Pork

Have you heard about the Pentagon spending $1.5 million to develop their own beef jerky? Or how about the $9 billion being spent on the Osprey helicopter which has been fraught with problems for years? Some call it the “pork with wings.” When Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense he tried to kill the program 4 times and failed.

Some in Congress would rather cut first responders, education, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid than cut the Pentagon budget.  But, across the political spectrum, new voices of reason in both parties are being raised to cut Pentagon waste. Without public pressure we won’t win.

On February 27, join us for an action in your community.  Find a location; download materials to hold your own event or fact sheets to write Letters to the Editor or question your Congressional representatives this week while they are at home for the Congressional recess. Go to http://pullthepork.org/

Move the Money from wars and new weapons, to fund jobs and human services.

Judith LeBlanc
Field Director
Peace Action


Action Alert: Sign and Circulate the Jobs Not Wars Petition!

January 17, 2013

One of the best ways to reduce the deficit is to put people back to work.  It’s time to invest in our people, and our communities. Let’s create stable jobs at living wages, rehabilitate our nation’s infrastructure and invest in programs that serve the needs of people and communities, and develop a sustainable economy that protects the planet.

That’s why I’m asking you to sign the Jobs not Wars Petition.

The extreme right has used the fiscal crisis over the last four years to force deep cuts in discretionary spending on programs that make up the social safety net.  Now, they have their sights set on Social Security and Medicare.

I need your help to make a clear statement to those in Congress, and the administration, to Move the Money from wars and weapons to fund jobs and human services.

Peace Action’s Move the Money Campaign has been all about building common cause with unions, environmental advocates and anti-poverty and civil rights activists.

When I told you about our petition campaign last month there were just over 80 groups gathering signatures.  There are now 135 endorsing organizations working to remind Congress and the Obama administration we need to fundamentally change federal budget priorities from wars and ever more deadly weapons to jobs and meeting the needs of our communities.

So please sign the Jobs not Wars Petition.  Once you have, please forward this email. Ask your friends and family to join you in signing the Jobs Not Wars Petition.  Post this link http://bit.ly/jobs-not-wars-PA on your Facebook page and tweet it to your social network.  There is strength in numbers.

In November, we voted to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and end the wars in order to reinvest in our communities.

The pressure we are building is having a real impact on the debate on federal spending priorities.  With decisions on the debt ceiling and sequestration and votes ahead on both the 2013 and 2014 budgets, it’s critical we keep pressing.

Humbly for Peace,

 

Kevin Martin
Executive Director
Peace Action


Defense Budget Not ‘Sacrosanct’ – Superb op-ed by NJ Peace Action’s Madelyn Hoffman in the Bloomfield Life

November 29, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

BY MADELYN HOFFMAN
GUEST COLUMNIST
Bloomfield Life

As the calendar propels us toward the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, there is no issue the U.S. Congress and President Obama will address more important for our states and our communities than the federal budget. If our elected officials can’t agree on a restructured budget before the end of 2012, an agreement reached under the Budget Control Act of 2011 will kick in:

* tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans initiated under George W. Bush will expire,

* tax rates on virtually everyone will increase, and

* automatic budget cuts will occur to hundreds of programs, including the military and Medicare

While some Congressional leaders fear this “fiscal cliff,” New Jersey Peace Action and our allies in Congress demand a fiscal showdown. We agree with retired Gen. Colin Powell. There is no rational reason why we can’t deal with the deficit if we cut the Pentagon budget saying “I don’t think the defense budget should be made sacrosanct.”

On a recent CNN State of the Union, Powell noted that when he was the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Dick Cheney was the Secretary of Defense, they presided over a 25 percent cut in the Pentagon budget. And still, today, the United States spends as much on war and weapons as the rest of the world combined.

We call on our elected officials to reject the agenda of “austerity” whose proponents consider the Pentagon budget and the taxes of the top 1 percent untouchable. Implementing this agenda will force most of us to pay the cost for an economic meltdown caused by Wall Street and the banks and by nearly $1.4 trillion in runaway military spending, including the expense of two lengthy wars. More jobs are created per dollar spent in almost any other sector except the military, so redirecting our spending from the military will put the country on a road to creating jobs while protecting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. None of these programs contributed a dime toward the deficit. Many low-to-moderate Americans paid into these programs and depend upon them for survival.

In addition, at a time when our need for fiscal responsibility has never been greater, we can also cut our nuclear weapons budget.

In mid-November, U.S. Rep. Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Congressional leadership on the issue of nuclear weapons and the fiscal cliff. He writes:

…Unchecked spending on nuclear weapons threatens to push us over the fiscal cliff.  It imperils both our national and economic security. It makes us less safe by preventing investment in the systems that our soldiers need most. It jeopardizes our future by forcing cuts to programs that fund life-saving medical research, train teachers, and ensure seniors and the most vulnerable receive essential healthcare.

The Ploughshares Fund estimates that the U.S. is projected to spend more than $640 billion on nuclear weapons and related programs over the next 10 years…

Cuts to nuclear weapons programs upwards of $100 billion over the next ten years are possible…Cut Minuteman missiles. Do not cut Medicare and Medicaid. Cut nuclear-armed B-52 and B-2 bombers. Do not cut Social Security. Invest in the research and education that will drive our future prosperity, not in weapons for a war [Cold War] we already won.

Congress must ensure that corporations and the super-rich pay their fair share of taxes. Congress can and must end the war and occupation of Afghanistan. Ending the war in Afghanistan and cutting funding for weapons even the military says it no longer needs would release enough money to eliminate all the states’ budget deficits, thus protecting the jobs of teachers, firefighters, police and other public employees.

Our elected officials need to restructure our economy so it is no longer dependent on wars and weapons and, instead, supports prosperous communities. Why not invest in renewable energy programs that both conserve resources and help slow down global warming? If we divert at least 25 percent of the military budget to community programs we can meet the growing demand for quality health care, housing and transportation as well as address the need for adequate supplies of food and clean water.

Join New Jersey Peace Action in contacting our U.S. senators and U.S. representatives about our priorities. It is important to raise our voices now as budget negotiations during this lame duck session continue. Congress last approved a budget in 1997. Every year since, our elected representatives have avoided confrontation around differing budget priorities by passing continuing resolutions and approving debt ceiling increases.

This year, let’s tell Congress to negotiate a fair deal that truly protects our communities without sending us over the fiscal cliff. The re-election of President Obama indicates that many Americans would support our approach and priorities.

Call U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg at 973-639-8700, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez at 973-645-3030, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell at 973-523-5152 and incoming U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. at 973-645-3213.

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


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