Thursday, 10 March 2016 00:00

The Peoples’ Budget and Pentagon Spending: A Start in the Right Direction

Written by Paul Shannon | Daily Kos
Budget for All rally protesting the Republicans government shutdown. Members of the American Federation of Government Employees joined people from community and peace groups at the Republican Headquarters in Boston Budget for All rally protesting the Republicans government shutdown. Members of the American Federation of Government Employees joined people from community and peace groups at the Republican Headquarters in Boston

The Peoples’ Budget of the Congressional Progressive Congress (CPC) does not make the deeper cuts in the Pentagon budget advocated by those who work against a way of life characterized by never-ending war.

But of all the federal budget proposals that will be introduced in Congress this spring, it offers the best option by far. While President Obama’s budget proposal does trim war spending a hair from last year, the Pentagon would still walk away with 54% of all discretionary spending. The Republican congress will, of course, insist on significant increases for the Pentagon in its budget along with massive cuts in non-Pentagon outlays as has been promoted by the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. And the Black Congressional Caucus has always shied away from the issue of cutting war funding.

The People’s budget courageously goes after the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) slush fund to generate most of its Pentagon cuts. It provides only one more year of OCO spending and then zeros out the OCO completely. Most importantly that one year of funding must be used to safely extricate our troops from the endless Afghanistan war. This feature of the Peoples’ Budget is by far the most positive and specific provision in its section on military spending. It cuts war spending by a whopping $761 billion over 10 years, closing out this OCO account that has been used to bring death and destruction to Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries over the past 15 years or so. (In addition the CPC budget adds significant funding for refugee re-settlement programs, diplomacy, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, and other worthwhile humanitarian and peace building efforts around the world.)

Other cuts in the Pentagon Budget are not as specific. The Peoples’ Budget does speak about reducing the Pentagon base budget by $164 billion over 10 years by establishing a “responsible approach” toward a sustainable defense budget. It speaks of reducing the use of outsourcing military jobs to private contractors and the concomitant cost overruns. Of great significance, it calls for the de-commissioning of cold war era nuclear weapons. It adds other potential savings to be derived from reducing procurement and R&D by making “smarter” procurement choices; cutting fraud; creating a “leaner” military with fewer personnel which is focused on modern security threats instead of cold war weapons and contracts; auditing the Pentagon and other reforms. How much each of these measures would save is unclear. And it seems to devote these savings to deficit reduction instead of moving them to human needs programs.

There are 2 main reasons why people who don’t believe in war as a way of life should give their full support to the Peoples’ Budget despite its limitations regarding war spending. The first is that its Pentagon cuts are far larger and more significant than in any other budget alternative before congress. If people want deeper cuts, then it is up to us to create the conditions that make deeper cuts politically feasible.

But the second reason is even more important. There is a critical need these days for peace forces to collaborate with other social movements for climate protection and for social and racial justice. The Peoples’ Budget can serve as an important vehicle for such a convergence because of its bold and substantial budget increases in so many important areas: poverty reduction, climate protection, affordable housing, job creation, debt-free college, major criminal just reforms, quality public education, upgrading mass transit, $765 million for health amelioration and new water pipelines just for Flint itself, comprehensive immigration reform, scientific research, strengthening social security, and establishing a Civilian Conservation Corps. Add to these other provisions for ending corporate tax evasion, a financial transactions tax, public funding of elections, species and water conservation and protection of voting rights and you have a budget that, while far from perfect, expresses the budget priorities that are the basis for a peaceful and just society in which we take responsibility for each other. It is our job now to make those budget priorities politically possible by mobilizing behind the Peoples Budget.

Paul Shannon is on the staff of the American Friends Service Committee in Cambridge, Mass. and a Coordinator of the Mass. Budget for All Coalition

Link to original article from Daily Kos

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