World

Paying for America's War Machine Is a Terrible Waste of Tax Money

It’s time to redirect our resources to meet human needs. It’s time to bring the war dollars home.

On April 14, the eve of tax day and ironically (or appropriately) Global Day of Action Against Military Spending, the Pentagon plans to launch a brand new weapon system, one that uses electric pulses to project a 40-pound missile the distance from New York City to Philadelphia at a speed of 5,600 mph. The U.S. Navy spent more than $4 billion to develop and build its stealth destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, a key element in President Obama's announced “pivot to the Pacific.” It's expected that the Zumwalt will be patrolling the coast of China soon at further – as yet undetermined –  expense to U.S. taxpayers.

When we're told by our elected officials that we can't afford full funding for education, SNAP (food stamps), Head Start, or unemployment compensation, how is it that we can afford the endless “War on Terror” plus a pivot to East Asia? Expecting a peace divided as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down is wishful thinking: President Obama still proposes to spend a whopping 55% of federal discretionary funds for Fiscal Year 2015 on the military.

In addition, we can expect still more spending on what normal people call “war funding” but Pentagon doublespeak calls “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO), a budget which is not subject to caps or cuts under sequestration. In 2014, Congress provided $85 billion for OCO, which has become a slush fund for the Pentagon to use on whatever.

President Obama’s FY15 budget also includes $28 billion for the “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.” He explained that this budget line would enable the Pentagon to “accelerate the schedules for developing and buying new or upgraded systems.”

Wasteful “defense” spending has the appearance of becoming a permanent fact of life in the U.S., creating a toxic dependence on the military in the local economies of every state in the nation. In response to objections, Sen. Angus King (I-ME) told his constituents we have to fund projects like the Zumwalt because: jobs. Last month he wrote: “Cuts threaten Maine industries like Bath Iron Works and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, hurting Maine families and smaller employers that depend upon those companies and other defense contractors for their livelihoods.” We hear similar objections from senators and representatives around the country.

But studies show even a tax rebate would create more jobs for the same investment. Only imagine the value added if Bath Iron Works (which is owned by leading “defense” contractor General Dynamics) were converted to produce something folks actually need, like light rail for public transit, or energy-efficient home construction. Efforts at the state level to pass legislation supporting conversion of the military economy are gaining momentum in Connecticut, Maryland and Massachusetts. These bills recognize the need to protect jobs and livelihoods while weaning ourselves off the Pentagon’s massive budget.

It’s time to stop wasting tax revenues on expensive weapons systems that are mostly needed to boost the profits of the corporations who build them. Until the Zumwalt came along, the poster child for this needless waste was the F-35 Join Strike Fighter. The National Priorities Project on the federal budget called it “the most expensive system in military history that has yet to be used in any military operation”.

It’s time to redirect our resources to meet human needs. It’s time to bring the war dollars home.
 

Lisa Savage is a CODEPINK Local Coordinator in Maine.
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