Move the Money from War to Education by Johnny Keane
We live in strange times, indeed. In the past few months, the U.S. Congress has failed to extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people and has passed legislation that will cut $8.6 billion in food stamps over the next 10 years, affecting 850,000 households in 1/3 of the states.
At the same time, the 2015 budget shows a 7% increase in spending on nuclear weapons, from $18.6 billion to $19.4 billion -- almost $1 billion. While the overall amount allocated for nuclear weapons is greater than last year, the funds dedicated to nuclear nonproliferation programs — programs to reduce the numbers of available warheads or securing so-called "loose nukes" was cut, making more dollars available to either build new nuclear weapons hardware or spend billions to modernize old ones, such as the B-61 bomb.
If this budget is accepted it will show once again that our nation's priorities favor increased spending on weapons of mass destruction at the expense of programs that help people survive tough times and keep food on their tables. At a time when our economy continues to struggle and the gap between rich and poor widens, how is it that our elected officials opt to spend more money on nuclear weapons? It is the wrong time to promote additional spending on nuclear weapons when diplomacy is easing tensions between the international community and Iran, a country which once again has assured the world that it is not planning to build nuclear weapons or when another diplomatic agreement obliged Syria to destroy its chemical weapons.
After spending $4 -- 6 trillion on war since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, the American public is war-weary and war-wise. The tremendous outpouring of opposition to a proposed military strike against Syria or war against Iran is due, in part, to an increasing number of Americans understanding the connection between these huge outlays of cash for war and a treasury drained of funds to help local communities.
Winslow Wheeler's March 13th article titled " America's $1 Trillion National Security Budget" published by the Straus Military Reform's Project on Government Oversight, explains how the Pentagon's criticism of a proposed $495.6 billion military budget for 2015 as "austere and dangerously inadequate" is misleading. According to Wheeler, "Scarcity of money is not their problem. Pentagon costs, taken together with other known national security expenses for 2015, will exceed $1 Trillion." Included in Wheeler's analysis are:
a maximum of $79.4 billion to continue the war in Afghanistan,
$6.2 billion in "mandatory" spending for military retirement and other DOD-only programs;
the Pentagon's $26 billion dollar portion of the "Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative" characterized by some as a slush fund,
$37.8 billion in additional money paid by the Treasury for military retirement and DOD healthcare,
$19.4 billion in nuclear weapons' costs borne by the Department of Energy,
$52.1 billion in non-DOD spending in the Department of Homeland Security,
$161.2 billion for the human consequences of past and ongoing wars in the Department of Veterans Affairs,
$39 billion for the activities of the Department of State and related agencies-for international security and the exercise of US power abroad; and
an equitable share of the interest on the national debt that is related to this spending.
These costs added together total $1.0095 trillion for 2015!
Here are two ways to reduce this. Two nearly identical bills in the U.S. Congress today target nuclear weapons spending to save money. Senator Markey, D-Mass, introduced the "Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE)" Act and Rep. Blumenauer, D-Ore, introduced the "Reduce Expenditures in Nuclear Infrastructure Now (REIN-IN)" Act. According toEric Tamerlani's article "Reining in Nuke Spending the Smart Way" in the March 12th Roll Call, these bills will save taxpayers $100 billion on nuclear weapons over 10 years. The bills would reduce the number of new nuclear submarines, cap tactical nuke modernization and scrap the F-35’s nuclear mission.
In late April, pro-disarmament activists from around the world will gather at the United Nations to prepare nuclear disarmament proposals to present at the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. Sharon Dolev, Director of the Israeli Disarmament Movement, will participate. She will also speak on "Cooling the Hot Spot: A Nuclear Weapons Free Middle East" at NJPA's April 27th Annual Dinner at the Regency House in Pompton Plains. Her talk will address what a nuclear weapons free Middle East means for Israel, the region, and the world, as well as obstacles within Israel to attaining that important goal. For more information and to make reservations, visit www.njpeaceaction.org.
Cooling off tensions in the Middle East and preventing another war will release funds for programs that address community needs. This is not only timely, but essential, for genuine security in our nation and the world.