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We Have to Trim the Bloated Pentagon Budget and Use the Cash for a 'Green Dividend' to Create Good Jobs

How can we come out of this recession with a manufacturing sector and a workforce that are globally competitive, that produce things that people need in the new green economy?

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This program has been in trouble for most of its life. Even Dick Cheney tried to phase it out when he was defense secretary. The Senate Armed Services Committee now supports the administration’s rejection of more C-17s. If this decision sticks, 5,000 workers in Long Beach, California alone will lose their jobs. 

So Boeing is looking for ways to show it can cut costs. Of course, cost containment has never been the defense contracting industry’s strong suit. So in recent years Long Beach officials have come up with a raft of ideas for how they can do it for them: give Boeing more tax breaks, cut the company’s water bill, de-privatize Boeing’s in-house fire service, and so on. What sorts of services will be left for Long Beach residents once all these breaks are in place is anybody’s guess.  

A reinvestment of the green dividend must rectify that problem. Many C-17 contractors could, if provided sufficient incentives, get involved in the technologically complex process of improving U.S. productivity with the kind of high-speed rail network that our economic competitors have been using for years.  

Super-fast trains are only one method of getting us to a new world of green manufacturing. To draw a more specific roadmap, we still need to have information on the numbers of workers at these facilities who will need to transition to other work in an expanded green economy. This information is actually quite hard to come by. Military producers for the most part treat the job classifications of their employees as proprietary information and withhold this information from the public. Once those job classifications are available, however, we can start matching them up with green job classifications. The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts has already  broken out job categories for building and retrofitting, mass transit and freight rail, a smart grid for electrical transmission, wind and solar power, and advanced biofuels. 

The green dividend is perhaps our last shot at transforming the U.S. economy. After the failure of the peace dividend, we have been given a second chance. If we blow it this time, we may never get another opportunity.  

John Feffer is co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus . Miriam Pemberton is peace and security editor for Foreign Policy In Focus.

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