Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/vetkit
November 21, 2013
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Do we want to feed hungry people, or feed the weapons industry?
This is the question at the crux of what may be the greatest moral dilemma in our national history—our bloated, destructive defense budget gobbles up our nation's funds while millions of people lack food and shelter.
Medea Bejamin of the peace and social justice advocacy group Code Pink
, posed this question on behalf of a campaign launched this week that urges major cuts to wasteful military spending, as part of the December 13 federal budget resolution.
“It's critical to show that we, as a people, choose food, education and green energy over bombs," Benjamin said.
Grassroots community organizers along with peace advocates, human services workers, social, economic and environmental justice organizers and green energy groups teamed up to launch a sign-on letter
calling for cuts of 25-50% in the trillion dollar military budget—which makes up an egregious 53% of all discretionary federal spending in the U.S. Meanwhile, almost 15 percent of the population in the U.S. is considered “food insecure," according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture
The groups will deliver the letter to Congress on December 10, which the UN General Assembly proclaimed Human Rights Day in 1950.
The coalition proposal builds on similar, but far less comprehensive, measures already proposed within Congress. Senator Bernie Sanders' recent budget blueprint calls for hundreds of billions of dollars of cuts in the military budget, for example. And in the former Congress, the signatures of more than 50 representatives made their way onto a letter calling for a 25% overall cut to the military budget, written by then-members Barney Franks and Ron Paul.
Organizers want Congress to refocus spending in the following ways:
1. Provide adequate funding for critical social needs, including food stamps, Social Security, improved and expanded Medicare for all, and public education including college.
2. Create a full employment public jobs program to jump start the green economy (a Green New Deal).
3. Rebuild vital infrastructure.
At the top of the agenda is for Congress to stop using our nation’s massive military budget to police the world, and instead return to a defense-oriented approach. Another necessary shift is to undo the unjustified militarization of our national borders against nonexistent military threats. The current militarization, the campaign argues, violates the basic human right to seek refuge from economic or political oppression.
Further, the groups urge the U.S. to pull American troops from Europe, Japan and Korea, as well as our 1,000 bases in almost 130 countries. These foreign bases cost more than a hundred billion dollars a year to maintain, the campaign notes.
In Ralph Nader's words, it’s time to to “rollback the Empire.”
"Since we no longer have major adversaries, why is the overall military budget larger than ever – taking over half the discretionary expenditures of the federal government?” he said. “Our country needs to … really cut the so-called defense budget and apply those monies to repairing and rebuilding our public works with good paying green jobs everywhere that cannot be exported."
The groups behind the new campaign also want Congress to stop the massive waste and fraud in Pentagon spending, war profiteering by military contractors, and the revolving door between government and military industries.
Reverend Kristin Stoneking, director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation notes that redirecting funds would allow the U.S. to invest in food, jobs, health care and the general needs of citizens at home, creating space for a “culture of peace.”