April 15 Tax Day: Global Day of Action on Military Spending!

February 20, 2014
VA Organizing at teh Richmond, VA post office on April 15, 2013

VA Organizing at teh Richmond, VA post office on April 15, 2013

By Judith Le Blanc, Peace Action Field Director

The International Peace Bureau’s Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) is April 15, US Tax Day. Peace Action is convening a cross section of peace and community, faith-based national groups who are supporting local actions across the country on Tax Day. Tax Day will be a day to shine a light on the Pentagon budget and how it drains the resources needed for our communities.

Not only does our government allocate a majority of the discretionary spending every year on the Pentagon at the expense of human needs and diplomacy, it also is one of the world’s biggest arms dealers.

The Tax Day actions are a call for changing national spending priorities, it is also a day of solidarity with all those who suffer from US wars past and present and the presence of over 1,000 bases around the world. The actions will call attention to the domestic impact of continuing to pour money into the Pentagon budget while community services are cut.

The recent Congressional budget deal delayed the next round of ”sequestration” or across the board budget cuts. Federal budget cuts were made but the Pentagon came out the big winner. In fact, the Overseas Contingency Operations account got bumped up while the war in Afghanistan is winding down creating a slush fund to blunt the impact of cuts!

Initial reports are that the Pentagon will announce their budget on February 24 and will include a $26-28 billion dollar “investment fund.” Yet another maneuver to add money to the budget and relieve the pressure to cut the Pentagon budget!

The April 15 Tax Day local actions will focus on Congress. In April, the Congress will be in the midst of working on the federal budget.

We will send a clear message to our Congressional representatives: ”Move the Money” from wars and weapons to human services and convert military industries into civilian use.

We have commitments from 10 Peace Action affiliates to work with their community allies to organize Congressional lobby visits, town hall meetings, and vigils, leafleting, banner drops or other visibility actions. Please post your event here.

Soon a US website will be up with materials, information and organizing tips. Find out more about what is going on around the world at http://demilitarize.org/

For more information email: JLeBlanc@peace-action.org.


Labor says: WI must shift from military spending to sustainable economy

December 21, 2013

By Judith Le Blanc, Peace Action Field DirectorMOVE circle

A great way to end the year is to toast yet another step forward in the Move the Money Campaign.

Peace Action, national and WI are working with WAND/WILL state legislators, National Priorities Project and the WI Network for Peace and Justice to introduce a CT style state bill to create a commission to explore ways for the local economy to move from dependence on defense contracts for good paying manufacturing jobs to producing for civilian needs.

The South Central Federation of Labor in WI  passed a resolution in support of such a bill, following in the steps of the CT State Federation of AFL-CIO and the MD-DC Federation in support of the bill being worked on in MD.

The introduction of bills in other states are being explored by WAND/WILL state legislators with the support of Peace Action and National Priorities Project.

Time is now to move the money from weapons and wars to fund jobs and human services.

Regional labor council takes stand against military spending. Calls for WI Futures Commission to help transition to sustainable economy

The South Central Federation of Labor (SCFL), AFL-CIO passed a resolution this week, calling on Wisconsin to shift away from military spending towards a more sustainable economy.  SCFL includes 100 affiliated unions representing working families in south-central Wisconsin.

The resolution notes that “Wisconsin’s economy is highly dependent on military spending,” and that “Oshkosh Truck, which develops military trucks for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan … has laid off 1,200 workers in the past year due to a decrease in federal contracts.”

It supports the formation of a Futures Commission, similar to one established by Connecticut, to “help the state convert from defense spending to more sustainable job creation, such as construction, clean energy, rebuilding national infrastructure and transportation.”

SCFL President Kevin Gundlach said, “Upon my arrival in Madison over 20 years ago, one of my first jobs was working with the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign.  The issues were clear.  It was time to cut the wasteful military spending and start producing domestic products and create jobs.  The campaign started locally and succeeded nationally.”

He added, “Today, we face yet again an economic system dependent on military spending that is unsustainable and has outlived its stated purpose.  It’s time we start putting in place the steps for a fair and just transition to an economy that works for all working families, for our veterans, the elderly, differently abled and our children alike.”

SCFL’s resolution is the sixth to be passed in Wisconsin.  Dane County and the city of Milwaukee previously passed Move the Money / War Dollars Home resolutions, along with the American Federation of Teachers – WI union, Madison Friends Meeting and Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay.  Nationally, more than 150 such resolutions have been passed by city councils, county boards and labor unions.


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.


Palin Is Ready? Please.

September 30, 2008
By: Fareed Zakaria (editor of Newsweek International)
http://www.newsweek.com/id/161204/page/1
Will someone please put Sarah Palin out of her agony? Is it too much to ask that she come to realize that she wants, in that wonderful phrase in American politics, “to spend more time with her family”? Having stayed in purdah for weeks, she finally agreed to a third interview. CBS’s Katie Couric questioned her in her trademark sympathetic style. It didn’t help. When asked how living in the state closest to Russia gave her foreign-policy experience, Palin responded thus:
“It’s very important when you consider even national-security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America. Where—where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to—to our state.”
There is, of course, the sheer absurdity of the premise. Two weeks ago I flew to Tokyo, crossing over the North Pole. Does that make me an expert on Santa Claus? (Thanks, Jon Stewart.) But even beyond that, read the rest of her response. “It is from Alaska that we send out those …” What does this mean? This is not an isolated example. Palin has been given a set of talking points by campaign advisers, simple ideological mantras that she repeats and repeats as long as she can. (“We mustn’t blink.”) But if forced off those rehearsed lines, what she has to say is often, quite frankly, gibberish.
Couric asked her a smart question about the proposed $700 billion bailout of the American financial sector. It was designed to see if Palin understood that the problem in this crisis is that credit and liquidity in the financial system has dried up, and that that’s why, in the estimation of Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, the government needs to step in to buy up Wall Street’s most toxic liabilities. Here’s the entire exchange:
COURIC: Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries; allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?
PALIN: That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the—it’s got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we’ve got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.
This is nonsense—a vapid emptying out of every catchphrase about economics that came into her head. Some commentators, like CNN’s Campbell Brown, have argued that it’s sexist to keep Sarah Palin under wraps, as if she were a delicate flower who might wilt under the bright lights of the modern media. But the more Palin talks, the more we see that it may not be sexism but common sense that’s causing the McCain campaign to treat her like a time bomb.
Can we now admit the obvious? Sarah Palin is utterly unqualified to be vice president. She is a feisty, charismatic politician who has done some good things in Alaska. But she has never spent a day thinking about any important national or international issue, and this is a hell of a time to start. The next administration is going to face a set of challenges unlike any in recent memory. There is an ongoing military operation in Iraq that still costs $10 billion a month, a war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan that is not going well and is not easily fixed. Iran, Russia and Venezuela present tough strategic challenges.
Domestically, the bailout and reform of the financial industry will take years and hundreds of billions of dollars. Health-care costs, unless curtailed, will bankrupt the federal government. Social Security, immigration, collapsing infrastructure and education are all going to get much worse if they are not handled soon.
And the American government is stretched to the limit. Between the Bush tax cuts, homeland-security needs, Iraq, Afghanistan and the bailout, the budget is looking bleak. Plus, within a few years, the retirement of the baby boomers begins with its massive and rising costs (in the trillions).
Obviously these are very serious challenges and constraints. In these times, for John McCain to have chosen this person to be his running mate is fundamentally irresponsible. McCain says that he always puts country first. In this important case, it is simply not true.

Oil Addiction

July 30, 2008

An informational video from Good Magazine about America’s dependency on oil.


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