Budget Deal Reached, Pentagon Gives Thanks

November 13, 2015

After years of gridlock and partisan rancor, the budget impasse may finally be broken. The President won increases in ‘non-defense’ spending as part of the deal, but the Pentagon will still gobble up more than 50% of the discretionary budget.  Allowed to increase spending at this pace, the Pentagon can look forward to its first trillion-dollar budget a decade from now.

Peace Action opposes the planned increases in Pentagon spending to $548 billion in fiscal 2016 and $551 billion in fiscal 2017.

The agreement would also increase the Pentagon slush fund, the Overseas Contingency Operations Fund (OCO), which is not subject to the budget caps. The deal would allow about $16 billion more than President Obama requested bringing the total number of tax dollars at the Pentagon’s disposal to over $600 billion for fiscal 2016.

Holding our elected leaders accountable for their rubber stamp approach to war and weapons spending is the first step.  With elections less than a year away, Peace Action is doing just that through our Peace Voter campaign.  Here’s an example of that work, as Will Hopkins, Executive Director of New Hampshire Peace Action asks Hillary Clinton about her “close ties to elements within the military industrial complex” last month on the Today show.

Peace Action continues to work with our allies on Capitol Hill pressing Congress to cut funding for big ticket items like the F-35 and nuclear overkill.  We are investing resources in our grassroots campaign to Move the Money from the Pentagon to meet the needs of our communities, working to build and strengthen local coalitions.  Over the past three years we have conducted workshops in 10 states training local activists in the workings – inside and out – of military budgets. Presently, we are planning trainings in Florida and Oregon for 2016.

More money for high-tech weaponry and unending war means less for our communities and people in need and less invested in green technologies necessary to avert climate disaster.  The federal budget is all about choices.

The federal budget represents our priorities as a nation and it should reflect our values. But powerful ideological forces and financial interests have hijacked the budget process for their own gain.

Martin Luther King Jr challenged us with the admonition, ‘those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.’

The political power required to bring democracy to decisions on federal budget priorities and foreign and military policies is not beyond us.  We are more than capable and we will make it happen.

An Iraq war veteran turned peace activist’s powerful Armistice Day message

November 10, 2015

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, originally Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I. New Hampshire Peace Action Director Will Hopkins is an Iraq war veteran, one with a powerful message we hope you will share.

87 year old Sam Winstead leads bicycle ride for peace from North Carolina to DC!

May 6, 2013




(photo: Kevin Martin)

That’s Sam on the right, with Korean-American peace activist Jae Lee on the left, on Saturday at Lafayette Park in front of the White House. Sam, his 69 year-old cousin Joe Winstead and “youngster” Ron Scroggs (age 66) biked from Raleigh, NC to our nation’s capital on Sam’s second annual ride for peace, arriving here on a glorious spring day after seven days on their bikes. After a day of rest, Sam, a World War II veteran, will meet with NC legislators here on Capitol Hill to deliver his message of ending U.S. wars, which already got out on the local ABC station’s Saturday evening news broadcasts! Peace Action helped support the event, along with Veterans for Peace, and NC Peace Action director John Heuer, also a VFP member, was the organizer/advance man of the trek. Here’s John’s report from day three of the tour in Virginia:

Day Three, Blackstone to Gum Spring

April 30

Sam, Joe, Ron, Jim and I found the same round table as the night before at the Farmers Café in Blackstone for a hearty breakfast, before launching the Day Three Ride for Peace.  The Blackstone Library was closed early Tuesday morning, so Sam wrote a note to accompany a copy of “When the World Outlawed War” and slipped it in the ‘return box’ at the library entrance.

I drove ahead marking the route as far as Goochland, and stopped at the White Hawk Music Café.  Sam and I had stopped there last spring when we scouted the route for the 2012 Ride for Peace.  The White Hawk offers the World’s Best Coffee Cake, great coffee, friendly service and wifi internet.  Tuesday morning they hosted a couple of tables of women bridge players as well.

When I finished arranging our accommodations for Culpeper and Leesburg, I marked the remainder of the route to the Grayhaven Winery in Gum Spring, and waited by the Parrish Grocery at the corner of Hwy 250 and 522 (downtown Gum Spring).  It turned out to be a long wait, but by 6:00pm Sam and Co. hove into view.  It had been a harrowing ride north of Goochland on Hwy 522, as rush hour traffic backed up behind tail driver Jim on the narrow 2-lane road.  Jim cringed at the thought that impatient drivers were cursing “Sam’s Ride for Peace” the sign prominently displayed on the back of Jim’s Toyota pick-up.  Jim hadn’t joined this ride to piss people off. At one point a VA state trooper pulled Jim off the road and cautioned him about holding up traffic.  A strong headwind and slate start helped put us in jeopardy.  For next year’s ride, we’ll get an earlier start from Blackstone, and dodge the rush into Gum spring.

Our return to the Grayhaven Winery was greeted with a warm welcome.  Last year we missed our host Deon Abrams, who was catering a dinner at the South African Embassy in Washington DC.  The Grayhaven features South African food and wine, and Deon is the caterer of choice for South African functions at the embassy and Ambassador’s home in DC.  He is also a relative newcomer to the Grayhaven Winery.  His wife Max’s parents, Chuck and Lyn Peple established the Grayhaven during the 1970’s, when it was one of just 6 wineries in Virginia.  Now there are 240.  As Deon described it, establishing a winery in Virginia is a popular way for rich people to lose money.  Max and Deon’s son, Azra, now 8 years old, is a full head taller than last year, and sported his own new bicycle.

When we stayed with the Peples /Abrams in 2012, we donated a book to their library.  Former Chapel Hill mayor and UNC Law School Dean Ken Broun had recently published “Saving Nelson Mandela—The Rivonia Trial and the Fate of South Africa.”   Deon believes strongly that Nelson Mandela was the only person who could have led South Africa out of Apartheid and onward toward democracy.

After we sampled a wonderful variety of Grayhaven wines, Max served up a delicious dinner that included a venison pate made by a vegetarian friend.  Chuck and Lyn are both literary folks, and Chuck showed us the newly published “400 Years—The History of Henrico County” of which he is co-author.  Chuck had turned 78 just 4 days earlier, and he is determined to train for Sam’s 2014 Ride for Peace.  Seeing the 87 year-old Sam Winstead on his bicycle has that effect on people.

More photos from Saturday’s gathering at Lafayette Park:


Believe it or not, Congress has your budget – Take Action now to support the Back to Work Budget!

March 14, 2013

That’s right the Congressional Progressive Caucus just released its alternative budget called the Back to Work Budget which cuts Pentagon bloat, makes the wealthy pay their fair share and protects Social Security and Medicare benefits for everyone.  On the other hand, Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget would dismember Medicare, slash spending on education and infant nutrition, and repeal ObamaCare.  Which one more represents your values?

These budgets could be voted on soon, so call your Representative now at (202) 224-3121 and ask them to support the “Back to Work Budget” by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The “Back to Work” budget saves money by fully funding troop withdrawal from Afghanistan within a year, significantly reducing the Nuclear Weapons complex, cutting private contractors and wasteful weapons systems all while protecting important veterans benefits.

Additionally, the Back to Work Budget provides a roadmap to economic recovery and progress.  It will create 7 million jobs in the first year, bring in taxes by closing corporate tax loopholes and taxes on those who can afford it, preserve services our people depend on, and balance the budget.

Please call the Congressional Hotline at (202) 224-3121 between 9 AM and 6 PM EDT.  They will connect you to your Representative.  Or you may click here to find the direct line to your Rep. and possibly leave a message after hours.

Now is the time to for your voice to be heard as Rep. Ryan wants to destroy Medicare so the ultra-wealthy can have tax breaks and some Democrats are willing to make weak compromises.  Call now to support the progressive solutions in the Back to Work Budget.

For a more just budget,

Paul Kawika Martin
Political Director
Peace Action

P.S. – Votes are expected soon on the U.S. budget.  Call your Representative now to support the “Back to Work Budget” which cuts wasteful Pentagon spending and protects vital services Americans depend on.

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

The Endless War Machine’s Toll On Our Troops – Suicides Exceeded Combat Deaths Last Year

January 15, 2013

The Associated Press reported yesterday the Pentagon’s internal statistics show more U.S. troops committed suicide last year than died in combat in Afghanistan. The Pentagon noted the rate of suicides in the military is below the civilian population – is that supposed to be somehow comforting?

In addition to ending the war now, leaving no residual troops in Afghanistan, not starting any new wars against Iran or anyone else and ceasing drone strikes in countries we are not at war with, the troops need real support, not the platitudes one hears constantly on NFL telecasts. Our sisters and brothers at Iraq Veterans Against the War are providing leadership with their “Right to Heal” Operation Recovery campaign, to stop sending troops on repeated combat tours and get them the treatment and support they need and deserve. Help IVAW out, and spread the word to those you think really want to support the troops.


We Won’t Be “Fiscal Stiffed!” No Deal! More information and resources for letters to the editor and op-eds

December 19, 2012

You’ve called the White House (202-456-1111) and Congress (866-426-2631) and told them “No Deal!” loud and proud, yes? No get your friends, family and colleagues to call too!


Okay, here is more information and resources, especially for writing letters to the editor or op-eds.


We at Peace Action have been meeting with labor and economic justice groups daily to share information and figure out how to respond to the current status of negotiations between the White House and Congress on sequestration and/or a “fiscal cliff deal.”.


Of course, the back and forth is hot and heavy, but one thing is clear. We need to exert maximum grassroots pressure to say, “No deal that cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid or ends the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest. And move the money from the Pentagon to fund jobs and human needs.”


The  proposed $100 Billion is not nearly enough but it is a first step in the direction that is necessary to address the crisis in the economy (the real crisis of jobs and wages, not the phony fiscal crisis). While at the same time it is a missed opportunity to cut even more and change national spending priorities at a time of economic crisis.


And it is a mainstream idea! Check out the letter in the Green Bay Press Gazette: Cut Military Budget to Balance Budget.


The Duluth City Council passed a resolution on Monday night. They said military spending is hurting their economy.



Resource and background material for letters to the editor or op-eds:


Center for American Progress on how $100 Billion cut from the Pentagon is a “down payment” on what can and should be cut from the Pentagon budget.


Paul Krugman: The Deal Dilemma: how to evaluate the deal.


From Politica: Some Republicans OK with Defense Cuts.


From Alternet: 7 Shocking Ways the Military Wastes our Money


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