Posts Tagged ‘Op-Ed’
June 28th 2012
Fear can be a great motivator – and a great manipulator. Those who oppose cuts to military funding play on our fears to convince us that any reduction in the defense budget would be a dangerous threat to our national security and to our economy. But is this level of panic justified? An examination of the assumptions that underlie the fears will expose just how shaky those assumptions are.
Shaky Assumption 1: The US must control, by force, the air, seas, and land of the entire planet.
Why such overwhelming military power? The US spends more on our military than our next 14 military competitors combined — six times more than China, 13 times more than Russia, and 73 times more than Iran. While we funnel roughly half of our discretionary tax dollars into military programs, China is capturing the market for solar panels. Most countries are fearlessly investing in health care and education for their citizens while the US is pulling funding from those very hallmarks of a great society. The result is that the US now ranks 37th on health indicators and our students rank 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.
Shaky Assumption 2: We need high priced weapons systems such as the F-15 and the “advanced multi-role stealth fighter jet” to keep us safe.
Our current “enemies” have no air force and no navy, and it is a stretch to claim that terrorists even have an army. The Rand Corporation, a think-tank allied with U.S. government military and intelligence forces, concluded that there is no battlefield solution to terrorism. Since 1968, only 7% of all terrorist groups were taken down by military force. In contrast, 40% of those groups were defeated through police and intelligence work, and 43% gave up their terrorist tactics as they were integrated into the political process.
Shaky Assumption 3: The military is a good jobs program.
According to analysts at the University of MA-Amherst, spending $1 billon on education and mass transit would produce more than twice as many jobs as spending $1 billion on defense. Spending on healthcare and construction for home weatherization and infrastructure would produce about 1-1/2 times as many jobs. The Pentagon spends $1 million/year to field a soldier in Afghanistan. With that same amount, we could hire nearly 30 teachers for a year. Additionally, many jobs learned in the military do not translate to civilian employment so the jobless rate for returning veterans is far higher than for the general population.
Shaky Assumption 4: Reducing military industries will hurt our economy.
Many people are employed by military contractors and in service industries near military bases, but does our economic health depend on this? Military spending has grown by 81% in the last decade, the period of the worst recession since WWII. Clearly, high military spending is not the key to our economic well-being. People employed in weapons industries, making products that kill people and destroy property and ecosystems, could just as well be working in jobs that improve our communities and our quality of life here at home.
Shaky Assumption 5: We need the military for innovations such as the microwave oven, the GPS, and the Internet.
The US military has a very large budget to fund research and development, but innovation can, and does, come from anywhere. On June 26, 100 university presidents from across the US sent a letter to President Obama calling for an easier path to permanent resident status for foreign students. Why? Because they found that of the 1,500 patents awarded to the top 10 patent-producing universities in the US, three-quarters had at least one foreign inventor, all-told they represented 88 countries. Rather than triggering that old “fight or flight response “at the mere mention of reducing military spending, let’s develop a new adaptive “stop and think” response. We will survive a reduction in military spending. We could even thrive if we redirected our tax dollars to productive and innovative ways of improving the well-being of our citizens and the world at large.
Letter to the Editor, by Betsy Crites. Published March 2nd 2012, News & Observer.
As Afghanistan comes unraveled and U.S. officials scramble to justify 11 years of war, four North Carolina members of Congress signed a letter to President Obama saying it’s time to leave, and sooner is better than later. As The N&O reported, U.S. Reps. Walter Jones, Brad Miller and David Price all spoke to the issue at a Town Hall Meeting on Feb. 20. (The fourth congressman, Howard Coble, was not present.) Jones was especially passionate about questioning the human and economic toll, asking “Where is the outrage?”
At the same meeting Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and State Department official in Afghanistan, who resigned in protest of U.S. policies, said our soldiers are caught in the middle of local feuds that have nothing to do with our security. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the U.S. $1.5 trillion in direct costs and will cost at least that much in ongoing care of wounded vets and war debt, according to Hoh.
Now, some U.S. senators and media are pushing for war in Iran. As Gen. Anthony Zinni said, if you liked Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll love Iran.
We are worlds apart, but we both have people who need jobs, health care, schools, transportation and sewers, and help for our homeless, elderly and hungry. Neither of us is getting our critical needs met in part because a war neither of us really wants is draining our economies, killing and injuring our young people, and depleting our spirits.
We don’t often make the connections with this far-off country, but we need to.
We’ve been told that deficits and debt are why we must endure major cuts in educational programs, health care, environmental protection and a wide array of services offered by non-profits. We are rarely told that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated to account for 23 percent of our deficits since 2003 (as reported in an article by N.C. Rep. Walter Jones in the Feb. 18 Washington Post).
A look at the numbers helps to understand how Durham and the countries where we’ve been at war are connected. In fiscal year 2011, the United States funneled $122 billion into the war in Afghanistan/Pakistan and $47.4 billion for military in Iraq. The combined $169.4 billion amounts to $3.2 billion a week.
Taxpayers in Durham are paying $106.8 million of that bill in 2011. With just a fraction of that money, we could easily cover the shortfalls in Durham’s education budget. Instead we will need to raise the sales tax just to keep schools afloat and begin funding a light rail system.
What else could Durham do with that $106.8 billion in war taxes? We could pay for:
- 45,204 children receiving low-income health care for one year;
- Or 1,977 elementary school teachers for one year;
- Or 13,817 Head Start slots for children for one year;
- Or 15,351 military veterans’ VA medical care for one year;
- Or 2,111 police or sheriff’s patrol officers for one year;
- Or 19,238 students receiving Pell Grants of $5,550.
With state and federal deficit hawks cutting everything from education programs to environmental protection, we have an obligation to ask: “Do we have our priorities straight?”
In case anyone thinks that Afghanistan is profiting from the huge influx of money and soldiers, consider these sad numbers: The per capita annual income is $330. The entire gross national product of Afghanistan is only $11.7 billion. (Recall the U.S. war there costs $122 billion.) It is a desperately poor country that needs schools, clinics, water systems, and health care. One out of eight Afghan mothers dies in childbirth. If they are ever going to rebuild, they need peace.
Neither Durham nor Afghanistan, Pakistan nor Iraq is getting what is needed to sustain a decent, secure life for their citizens, and they won’t until we make the connections and speak up about our priorities.
Durham citizens and community leaders are posing this question to our local elected officials. The U.S. Conference of Mayors and Los Angeles City Council passed resolutions to end the wars and fund human needs, sending a clear message to federal officials. Durham can do the same.
We invited concerned citizens to join the discussion with our local elected officials on Sept. 10, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 305 E. Main St., Durham. Members of the City Council, Board of County Commissioners, Board of Education, and members of the General Assembly from our area will be present. All are welcome.
© Copyright 2011, The News & Observer Publishing Company
May 13, 2011
To the Editor:
Charles Krauthammer believes that finding and assassinating Osama Bin Laden would not have been possible without the Global War on Terror (N&O, 5/6). He doesn’t mention the cost, but it is clearly the most expensive manhunt in history.
To date American human cost is 5,885 killed and 32,051 seriously wounded, including the grief and damage to families of those soldiers. Tens of thousands Afghanistan and Iraq natives have been killed, many of them women and children. Three-million have been displaced from their homes.
There is the financial cost of $1.2 trillion. We have a national budget that was balanced prior to the wars and now is deeply in the red. Read the rest of this entry »
To the Editor:
It is very true that earmark spending has come to symbolize runaway spending by the Federal Government (N&O, 11/26). But, why are Republicans in Congress concerned about spending millions of dollars on domestic civic projects? After all, that spending provides work for people and infrastructure that is needed by our communities. On the other hand, congressional Republicans have no problem spending a trillion dollars in this decade on two futile wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—wars they are directly responsible for starting. That spending sends dollars abroad and unlike earmarks, has no positive effect for our nation—no new schools or hospitals or affordable housing, or the many other infrastructure needs of our nation. Since 2001, North Carolina has contributed $30 billion to the Afghanistan/Iraq wars. The dividend from that $30 billion investment by our state has been much death and destruction, incredible suffering, no benefit for North Carolina, and arguably less security for our nation. When that $30 billion expenditure over 9 years is compared to the $3.5 billion budget shortfall predicted for our state in 2011 (N&O, 11/23), it becomes obvious how misplaced the concern over earmark spending really is.