Invest in People, Not War


Earlier this month, a delegation of activists took to Capitol Hill to demand a decrease in the massive, out-of-control military budget. As millions of Americans struggle with inadequate health care, low wages, deteriorating public services and uncertainty about their futures as the wage gap between the wealthy elite and the working poor widens, billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars are pouring into the coffers of the Department of Defense every year. The Pentagon budget currently makes up half of the U.S. government’s entire operating budget. Estimated to be around $716 billion in 2013, the U.S. defense budget is greater than the defense budgets of the next ten highest spending nations combined. The gathering was, appropriately, scheduled on International Human Rights Day.

Some of the groups present were: Roots Action, the Hunger Action Network of New York State, Code Pink, Green Shadow Cabinet, Coalition Against Nukes, Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, U.S. Labor Against the War and many more. See their open letter to members of Congress and President Obama here.

The consortium of activists’ are asking Congress to slash the bloated military budget and use the significant savings to enhance critical social programs that actually help people, things like food stamps, Social Security and improved full Medicare-for-all healthcare. They also suggested a massive public works agenda that creates good paying un-exportable jobs in every community around the country — jobs that include clean, renewable energy for the future. And what of America’s crumbling infrastructure? Our clinics, roads, schools, bridges, libraries, public transit, public water and sewage systems and national parks are in dire need of repair and modernization. The savings from defense spending could be used to repair infrastructure — much of which was a product of FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s — and ensure a cleaner, safer, more prosperous America.

These are proposals that would benefit our citizenry rather then ravage and destroy countries abroad whose citizens far too regularly become victims in the U.S.’s perpetual military adventures.

The American people have long been subject to fear mongering and propaganda-spreading about alleged foreign threats to their safety. The blowbacks are costly. This campaign for perpetual war has significantly benefited corporate contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Halliburton who reap the massive rewards of a defense budget many times greater than that of any other country on Earth. Consider this — the Navy’s latest aircraft carrier currently under construction, the USS Gerald R. Ford, is expected to cost $12.8 billion. That’s a billion dollars more than the current annual budget of the entire Internal Revenue Service. The United States already has eleven aircraft carriers, all of which outmatch every other foreign naval vessel on the sea. The IRS budget, on the other hand, is too inadequate to properly police tax evaders who reportedly cost the government $300 billion in losses every year. According to a 2011 report from The Motley Fool: “Tax evasion in the last decade cost an amount roughly equivalent to the Bush tax cuts, the Obama stimulus, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan … combined.”

Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of the Hunger Action Network of NYS, who is a key figure in organizing the campaign said: “Cutting the military budget in half would reduce it to where it was before 9/11 — when it was way too high. The amount of money spent on theUS military is a crime against humanity. It steals our children’s future and it oppresses people across our planet. We shouldn’t be cutting SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] funds to feed our children and seniors while wasting tens of billions of dollars to build planes and tanks that are often mothballed in desert parking lots soon after they roll off the assembly line.”

President Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the “military industrial complex” in his farewell address in 1961. Now, over fifty years later, we see the result of unchecked, reckless spending on costly, unnecessary high-tech weapons of mass destruction — and the disturbing need to find uses for them. On December 12, a drone strike in Yemenreportedly killed at least 13 people traveling in a wedding procession. A Yemeni government official has claimed that the wedding convoy contained members of Al Qaeda — although earlier reports claimed the convoy was targeted mistakenly.

Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin recently posed the question: “Do we want to feed hungry people or feed the weapons industry?”

The defense budget — which the Government Accountability Office of Congress deems “un-auditable” — is loaded with waste, redundancy, corruption, cost overruns, complex billing fraud and poor quality control. Let us heed Eisenhower’s warning at long last and use our nation’s wealth to make significant investments in a future that benefits people. (Read Eisenhower’s famous 1953 “Cross of Iron” speech on this matter.)

At the least, each person can do his or her part by reaching your Senators and Representatives with your outcries. Call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?
Barry Lando
Syria: Obama’s Bay of Pigs?
Karl Grossman
The Politics of Lyme Disease
Andre Vltchek
Southeast Asia “Forgets” About Western Terror
Jose Martinez
American Violence: Umpqua is “Routine”?
Vijay Prashad
Russian Gambit, Syrian Dilemma
Sam Smith
Why the Democrats are in Such a Mess
Uri Avnery
Nasser and Me
Andrew Levine
The Saints March In: The Donald and the Pope
Arun Gupta
The Refugee Crisis in America
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Lara Santoro
Terror as Method: a Journalist’s Search for Truth in Rwanda
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Elections and Verbal Vomit
Dan Glazebrook
Refugees Don’t Cause Fascism, Mr. Timmermann – You Do
Victor Grossman
Blood Moon Over Germany
Patrick Bond
Can World’s Worst Case of Inequality be Fixed by Pikettian Posturing?
Pete Dolack
Earning a Profit from Global Warming
B. R. Gowani
Was Gandhi Averse to Climax? A Psycho-Sexual Assessment of the Mahatma
Tom H. Hastings
Another Mass Murder
Anne Petermann
Activists Arrested at ArborGen GE Trees World Headquarters
Ben Debney
Zombies on a Runaway Train
Franklin Lamb
Confronting ‘Looting to Order’ and ‘Cultural Racketeering’ in Syria
Carl Finamore
Coming to San Francisco? Cra$h at My Pad
Ron Jacobs
Standing Naked: Bob Dylan and Jesus
Missy Comley Beattie
What Might Does To Right
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi Jayanti, Gandhi’s Dream
Raouf Halaby
A Week of Juxtapositions
Louis Proyect
Scenes from the Class Struggle in Iran
Christopher Washburn
Skeptik’s Lexicon
Charles R. Larson
Indonesia: Robbed, Raped, Abused
David Yearsley
Death Songs