While the president speaks eloquently of his vision of “shared sacrifice,” in reality it is still a budget that hits the poor and the middle-class hardest while wealthy Americans and the military are asked to sacrifice far less.
The fight over whether the United States maintains a social-safety net for seniors and our most vulnerable citizens is, by any reasonable measure, a "which side are you on struggle?" The Republicans know that; they are ready to shred the safety net in order to advance a privatization agenda that enrichs their wealthiest donors. But President Obama is still having trouble taking a stand.
[Despite trying to destroy worker's unions] Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker testified today before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and he had the chutzpah to say: "In Wisconsin, we are doing something truly progressive."
Iowa legislators, working hand in cozy hand with [meat industry] lobbyists, are set to become the first state to solve the problem of factory farms that abuse animals - not by fixing or regulating them, but by banning whistleblowers who might tell us about the barbaric things they're doing there.
Three days after Hosni Mubarak resigned as the long-standing dictator in Egypt, people in the small Gulf state of Bahrain took to the streets, marching to their version of Tahrir, Pearl Square, in the capital city of Manama. Bahrain has been ruled by the same family, the House of Khalifa, since the 1780s—more than 220 years. Bahrainis were not demanding an end to the monarchy, but for more representation in their government.
One month into the uprising, Saudi Arabia sent military and police forces over the 16-mile causeway that connects the Saudi mainland to Bahrain, an island. Since then, the protesters, the press and human-rights organizations have suffered increasingly violent repression.
The Pakistani military's recent demands on the United States to curb drone strikes and reduce the number of U.S. spies operating in Pakistan, which have raised tensions between the two countries to a new high, were a response to U.S. military and intelligence programmes that had gone well beyond what the Pakistanis had agreed to in past years.
Endless War and Empire: Your Tax Dollars at Work
By Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis
Published 4/14/11 at PinkTank
Death and taxes are the only certainties in life. And these days, they go hand in hand.
While our fiscal woes have led Congress to slash foodaid this year to the world’s poor — rest assured, fellow Americans — the U.S. government will keep using your tax dollars to kill them. For while John Boehner and Barack Obama might disagree on some things, there’s one area they can agree on: War. And the need for more of it.
“Money for bombs, not bread,” might be a good bipartisan slogan.
And when it comes to dropping its citizens’ tax dollars on flying killer robots and foreign military occupations, no country comes close to the United States. According to the StockholmInternationalPeaceResearchInstitute (SIPRI), the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — more than $150 billion in direct spending this year alone — exceeds what China, the U.S.’s closest military rival, spends altogether on its armed forces. Overall, the Obama administration will spend more than $700 billion next year on the military.
That’s more than George W. Bush ever spent. And figures releasedthisweek by SIPRI show that since Obama took office, the U.S. has been almost entirely responsible for the global rise in military spending: $19.6 billion of $20.6 billion since 2008. What a difference a Nobel laureate makes.
And the actual figure spent on war – the fighting of it, the preparation for it and the consequences of it – is substantially higher than acknowledged, with spending on military programs often buried in places like the Department of Energy, which oversees the U.S.’s massive stash of nuclear weapons. Counting those hidden costs, including veterans benefits, aid to foreign militaries and interest payments on defense-related debt, economist RobertHiggsestimates the U.S. government spends more than $1 trillion a year on empire.
But you wouldn’t grasp the enormity of the U.S.’s commitment to militarism if you listened to its politicians. Remarking last week on the deal he struck that slashes $38.5 billion in federal spending, PresidentObamasaid the agreement “between Democrats and Republicans, on behalf of all Americans, is on a budget that invests in our future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history.”
Sounds lovely. But the reality, not the rhetoric, is that Obama and his allies in Congress aren’t cutting Pentagon waste and investing in rainbows and unicorns – unless, perhaps, there’s some way to harness their power for weapons. Rather, they’re investing in war at the cost of community health centers, local development projects and Medicare. In Washington, you see, money for killing people is safe from the cutting board; it’s the money that actually helps them that‘snot.
“We will all need to make sacrifices,” Obama reiterated in his speech on the national debt this week — just not the Pentagon, which is guaranteed more money every year under this president’s watch. “I will never accept cuts that compromise our ability to defend our homeland or America’s interests around the world,” Obama said. As for cuts to domestic spending, including to “programs that I care deeply about”? Well, that’s a different story.
And if you’re a U.S. taxpayer, forget welfare programs: bombing and occupying countries that pose no credible threat to America — Obama has so far authorized attacks in at least six countries since taking office, including Yemen, Somalia and the latest and greatest $8.3-million-a-day war for peace, Libya — is your single greatest expense as a citizen. Indeed, overhalfoffederaldiscretionaryspending — what Americans will pay for with their incomes taxes on April 18 — goes to the armed forces and their legion of private contractors.
Now imagine what that money could do if it went to something more productive. Imagine if, instead of paying for bombs to be dropped around the world, those tax dollars went toward fulfilling actual human needs — toward creating friends, not enemies.
For the cost of just one minute of war we could build 16 new schools in Afghanistan. For 60 seconds of peace, we could fund 36 elementary school teachers here at home. This year’s funding for the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — $172.4 billion — could provide healthcarefor 88.4 millionpoorAmericanchildren.
The obvious wastefulness of war has even some politicians beginning to talk of investing in America instead of arms manufacturers. Congressmen Barney Frank and Ron Paul recently convened a task force that produced a detailed report with specific recommendations for cutting Pentagon spending by approximately $1 trillion over the next decade.
But lawmakers — all of whom have military contractors in their districts — rarely do anything good of their own volition. Rather, they have to be forced into action by those they purport to represent. At the local level, communities are doing just that by pressuring mayors to sign a resolution calling on Congress to redirect military spending to domestic priorities. A similar resolution, spearheaded by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, will be considered at the June meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Pressuring politicians is not the only route to affect change, of course. The War Resisters League, for instance, suggests principled civil disobedience: refusingtopaytaxestofundunjustwars. That route is fraught with risk, including the prospect of jail time, but it’s one that would have made great Americans like Martin Luther King and HenryDavidThoreau proud.
Not everyone can accept those risks, especially for those with families to worry about. But another option, living simply and reducing one’s taxable income, has the added benefit of not just starving the warfare state, but curbing one’s contribution to mindless consumerism and global climate change. And forgoing a new iPhone is a small price to pay to save a life.
Be it refusing to pay for war or speaking out against the injustice of bombing and killing poor people on the other side of the globe, the important thing is to recognize one’s role in the war machine and commit to doing something about it — to quit complacently accepting the world as it is and to work toward making it what it should be. The greatest enabler of the military-industrial complex isn’t really taxes: it’s apathy.
London After Midnight / Sean Brennan