David Swanson, Let’s Try Democracy.
Charlottesville, Va., City Council has on its agenda for Monday, March 20th, a vote on a resolution opposing President Donald Trump’s proposal to shift $54 billion from human and environmental needs to military spending. The resolution calls on Congress to shift funds in the opposite direction.
The resolution is endorsed by Charlottesville Veterans For Peace, Charlottesville Amnesty International, World Beyond War, Just World Books, Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club, Candidate for Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeff Fogel, Charlottesville Democratic Socialists of America, Indivisible Charlottesville, heARTful Action, Together Cville, Clergy and Laity United for Peace and Justice.
Trump’s budget proposal would cut the Environmental Protection Agency by 31%, the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 13%, the State Department by 28%, the Department of Agriculture by 21%, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by 100%, the Institute of Museum and Library Services by 100%, and the National Endowment for the Arts by 100%.
Military spending would rise by $54 billion to something over 60% of discretionary spending, a percentage not seen since the Cold War. Then, according to reports, Trump will ask for $33 billion more off-the-books as a supplemental budget for the current (not the next) fiscal year for the military to spend on programs that candidate Trump denounced such as the F-35, and including $3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to spend building a wall and detaining and deporting immigrants. Assuming a similar future supplement to the fiscal year 2018 budget, actual discretionary spending could see over 65% go to militarism.
Trump’s budget proposal does not fund any of the infrastructure he promised during his election campaign.
“The Sierra Club supports full funding of the Environmental Protection Agency so that it can adequately protect communities through enforcement of the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Toxic Substances Control Act and other important laws,” said John Cruickshank, Chair of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club.
“We cannot look away any longer. Last week ground troops entered Syria and the press barely mentioned it. The week before, Pathfinders returned from combat in Africa. Who knew we are fighting in Africa? We have military deployed to over 150 countries. How many countries are there?” asked Daniel Saint of the Charlottesville chapter of Veterans For Peace. “President Obama, in his last State of the Union Address, proudly claimed that the United States spends more than the next eight countries combined–China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, United Kingdom, India, Germany, and Japan. Combined! Now Trump wants to dramatically expand adding another $54 billion. It costs $12 thousand to drill a well bringing fresh water to a village with no clean source of drinking water. For just the budget increase proposed by Trump, we could provide 4.5 million new wells across Africa, India and Latin America. Imagine if children from around the world grew up with a vision of the United States as bringing clean drinking water rather than bomb fragments stamped ‘made in the USA.’ Would our children and grandchildren be safer with new fresh wells or more nuclear weapons?”
“Indivisible Charlottesville, along with thousands of Indivisible organizations across America, is committed to resisting the Trump administration’s efforts to reverse the progress of the last century, and to building a diverse country that can face the challenges of the next one,” said David Singerman. “Trump plans to destroy the programs that let Virginians drink clean water, breathe clean air, live in affordable housing, attend some of the world’s best universities, and sleep without fear of chemical and industrial accidents. He would do this in order to pile money into what’s already the strongest military in history, and in order to cruelly build walls across our borders and end aid programs that give succor to the most vulnerable people in the world.”
“Not only is the military the wrong place to put more money,” said David Swanson, director of World Beyond War, “but nobody can even say where all that money goes. The Department of so-called Defense, which President Trump says has created a hornet’s nest of the Middle East, is the one department never audited.”
“We have known for many years that the Department’s business practices are archaic and wasteful, and its inability to pass a clean audit is a longstanding travesty,” Chairs John McCain (R-AZ) and Mac Thornberry (R-TX) of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees said recently in a joint statement. “The reason these problems persist is simple: a failure of leadership and a lack of accountability.”
“If we can stop a Muslim ban,” added Swanson, “we can stop an immoral budget too!”
A CNN poll on March 1-4 asked for opinions on this proposal: “Increase military spending by cutting funding for the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency and other non-defense agencies.” Nationally, 58% disapproved, and 41% approved.
Charlottesville provides an example of how federal budget priorities are out of line with popular opinion. Using the calculations of the National Priorities Project at CostofWar.com, “Every hour, taxpayers in Charlottesville, Virginia are paying $12,258 for Department of Defense in 2016.” That’s $107.4 million in a year. Much of military spending is in other departments. The National Priorities Project provides the numbers for a few of them: $4.1 million from Charlottesville for nuclear weapons, $2.6 million for weapons for foreign governments, $12.6 million for “homeland security,” and $6.9 million for the 2016 off-the-books extra slush fund. That’s $133.6 million, not counting various other expenses, and not counting the extra $54 billion or an additional $30 billion, which would bring the cost to Charlottesville up by another $16 million to $149.6 million.
According to National Priorities Project, that is enough money to provide 1,850 Elementary School Teachers for 1 Year, or 2,019 Clean Energy Jobs Created for 1 Year, or 2,692 Infrastructure Jobs Created for 1 Year, or 1,496 Jobs with Supports Created in High Poverty Communities for 1 Year, or 16,788 Head Start Slots for Children for 1 Year, or 14,479 Military Veterans Receiving VA Medical Care for 1 Year, or 4,504 Scholarships for University Students for 4 Years, or 6,431 Students Receiving Pell Grants of $5,815 for 4 Years, or 63,103 Children Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for 1 Year, or 168,519 Households with Wind Power for 1 Year, or 42,024 Adults Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for 1 Year, or 104,093 Households with Solar Electricity for 1 Year. Each of these items is more than Charlottesville, which does not have 104,093 households, could possibly use.
The resolution drafted for Charlottesville’s City Council follows:
Whereas Mayor Mike Signer has declared Charlottesville a capital of resistance to the administration of President Donald Trump.[i]
Whereas President Trump has proposed to move $54 billion from human and environmental spending at home and abroad to military spending[ii], bringing military spending to well over 60% of federal discretionary spending[iii],
Whereas part of helping alleviate the refugee crisis should be ending, not escalating, wars that create refugees[iv],
Whereas President Trump himself admits that the enormous military spending of the past 16 years has been disastrous and made us less safe, not safer[v],
Whereas fractions of the proposed military budget could provide free, top-quality education from pre-school through college[vi], end hunger and starvation on earth[vii], convert the U.S. to clean energy[viii], provide clean drinking water everywhere it’s needed on the planet[ix], build fast trains between all major U.S. cities[x], and double non-military U.S. foreign aid rather than cutting it[xi],
Whereas even 121 retired U.S. generals have written a letter opposing cutting foreign aid[xii],
Whereas a December 2014 Gallup poll of 65 nations found that the United States was far and away the country considered the largest threat to peace in the world[xiii],
Whereas a United States responsible for providing clean drinking water, schools, medicine, and solar panels to others would be more secure and face far less hostility around the world,
Whereas our environmental and human needs are desperate and urgent,
Whereas the military is itself the greatest consumer of petroleum we have[xiv],
Whereas economists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have documented that military spending is an economic drain rather than a jobs program[xv],
Be it therefore resolved that the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, urges the United States Congress to move our tax dollars in exactly the opposite direction proposed by the President, from militarism to human and environmental needs.
[i] “Signer Declares City a ‘Capital of Resistance’ Against Trump, Daily Progress, January 31, 2017, http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/politics/signer-declares-city-a-capital-of-resistance-against-trump/article_12108161-fccd-53bb-89e4-b7d5dc8494e0.html
[ii] “Trump to Seek $54 Billion Increase in Military Spending,” The New York Times, February 27, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/27/us/politics/trump-budget-military.html?_r=0
[iii] This does not include another 6% for the discretionary portion of veterans’ care. For a breakdown of discretionary spending in the 2015 budget from the National Priorities Project, see https://www.nationalpriorities.org/campaigns/military-spending-united-states
[iv] “43 Million People Kicked Out of Their Homes,” World Beyond War, https://worldbeyondwar.org/43-million-people-kicked-homes / “Europe’s Refugee Crisis Was Made in America,” The Nation, https://www.thenation.com/article/europes-refugee-crisis-was-made-in-america
[v] On February 27, 2017, Trump said, “Almost 17 years of fighting in the Middle East . . . $6 trillion we’ve spent in the Middle East . . . and we’re nowhere, actually if you think about it we’re less than nowhere, the Middle East is far worse than it was 16, 17 years ago, there’s not even a contest . . . we have a hornet’s nest . . . .” http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2017/02/27/trump_we_spent_6_trillion_in_middle_east_and_we_are_less_than_nowhere_far_worse_than_16_years_ago.html
[vi] “Free College: We Can Afford It,” The Washington Post, May 1, 2012, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/free-college-we-can-afford-it/2012/05/01/gIQAeFeltT_story.html?utm_term=.9cc6fea3d693
[vii] “The World Only Needs 30 Billion Dollars a Year to Eradicate the Scourge of Hunger,” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2008/1000853/index.html
[viii] “Clean Energy Transition Is A $25 Trillion Free Lunch,” Clean Technica, https://cleantechnica.com/2015/11/03/clean-energy-transition-is-a-25-trillion-free-lunch / See also: http://www.solutionaryrail.org
[ix] “Clean Water for a Healthy World,” UN Environment Program, http://www.unwater.org/wwd10/downloads/WWD2010_LOWRES_BROCHURE_EN.pdf
[x] “Cost of High Speed Rail in China One Third Lower than in Other Countries,” The World Bank, http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2014/07/10/cost-of-high-speed-rail-in-china-one-third-lower-than-in-other-countries
[xi] Non-military U.S. foreign aid is approximately $25 billion, meaning that President Trump would need to cut it by over 200% to find the $54 billion he proposes to add to military spending
[xii] Letter to Congressional leaders, February 27, 2017, http://www.usglc.org/downloads/2017/02/FY18_International_Affairs_Budget_House_Senate.pdf
[xiv] “Fight Climate Change, Not Wars,” Naomi Klein, http://www.naomiklein.org/articles/2009/12/fight-climate-change-not-wars
[xv] “The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities: 2011 Update,” Political Economy Research Institute, https://www.peri.umass.edu/publication/item/449-the-u-s-employment-effects-of-military-and-domestic-spending-priorities-2011-update