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From Flint’s Children to Nuclear Weapons, Funding Our Nation’s Priorities

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This week our nation funds our national priorities on tax day. In this era of growing discussion about participatory democracy and citizens engaging in the decisions of how their community tax dollars should be allocated it is important for each of us to identify what our priorities are.

The priorities we set provide a moral mirror of our humanity and are the fabric of our nation. From social security to Medicare, education, rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, environmental protection to defense and yes the funding of nuclear weapons programs this is the time we fund each of these priorities. Yet what role does the latter, nuclear weapons, really play in our humanity? We now recognize that their use in any way is unacceptable and would forever change our world. Even a “tiny” nuclear war using half of one percent of the global nuclear arsenals or approximately 100 Hiroshima size bombs could kill two billion people from the climate change that would follow. Any use therefore would be the ultimate “reset” button in this crazy game we play ending life as we know it on the planet.  Yet we continue to gamble allowing luck to be the overriding determinant. Luck is not a security policy!

The myth of nuclear deterrence has been one of the greatest driving forces of the nuclear arms race. Because if your country has one weapon then I must have two and so on. Currently there are 15,375 nuclear weapons in the world’s arsenals.

For this 2015 tax year, the U.S. will spend $55.9 billion on all nuclear weapons programs.  This expenditure affects every single community from the very poorest to wealthiest, robbing these communities of vital resources that could provide for their basic needs.  The children of Flint, Michigan who have unwittingly become the mine canaries of a society that chose cost savings over clean drinking water will see their city pay $8,781,398.10 for nuclear weapons programs. These weapons do nothing but add to the uncertain future of these children. My community of Ventura County north of Los Angeles, California with a population of 850,536 and per capita average income of $33,308 will spend $155,321,482.10 as our share of these nuclear weapons programs. Our wealthiest Americans from the Zuckerbergs to the Buffetts and Gates with their generous philanthropy will contribute in excess of $6.09 million for every billion dollars income last year. How does this help the world they envision? Is this really the best use of these precious dollars?

Nuclear weapons programs have been allowed to take on a life of their own seemingly without end. We are planning to embark on a $1 trillion dollar nuclear modernization program over the next 30 years.

While the danger of a nuclear disaster is as high as or higher than during the height of the Cold War, it is an unexamined assumption that this is what must be.  There is much that is happening as peoples, leaders and nations are awakening to the realities of our nuclear world. There is an ever growing awareness of the potential impact and ultimate costs of nuclear weapons and war. The winds of change are blowing.

To date, 127 Nations have formally endorsed the Humanitarian Pledge – a commitment by nations to fill the unacceptable “legal gap” that allows nuclear weapons to remain the only weapons of mass destruction not yet explicitly prohibited under international law. It is time to change the rules!

In June 2015, the American Medical Association passed a resolution urging the U.S. and all national governments to continue to work to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons and has committed to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to increase public awareness and education on the topic of the medical and environmental consequences of nuclear war – what has been called the final epidemic.

On April 24, 2014, the tiny Republic of the Marshall Islands filed landmark lawsuits against the nine nuclear-armed nations for failing to comply with their obligations under international law to pursue negotiations for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons. This David vs. Goliath effort continues to work through the International Court of Justice.

Rotary programs around the world are now hearing presentations on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear war and more importantly are figuring out how best to deal with this international health risk for which there is no cure.

Pope Francis has also spoken out and called for the elimination of nuclear weapons when he said “A world without nuclear weapons is essential for the future and survival of the human family … we must ensure that it becomes a reality.”

There is much that is happening and the choice is ours. The time is now. Silence implies consent. It is time to let our voices be heard and let our representatives know what our priorities are.  We can and must do better.

To calculate your individual or community cost of nuclear weapons programs go to: http://www.psr-la.org/nuclear-costs

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