Beyond War: A New Economy Is Possible- Part I- Poverty

Send America to Work, Not War

Someone who I thoroughly respect is a man by the name of Andrew Heaslet. He is the Coordinator for the Peace Economy Project, a non-profit organization that advocates the reduction of military spending in favor of social and infrastructure needs. He has written some very interesting talking points, which I will be presenting over the next three days, in three parts- focusing on poverty, racism and Militarism. Both Andrew and I welcome all comments, provided they are respectful. Enjoy!

In his 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech, Dr Martin Luther King Jr declared, “We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”  He also warned, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

 

It is in that spirit that United For Peace and Justice has created a new campaign borrowing part of its title from Dr King’s famous 1967 speech.  We are attempting to fulfill Dr King’s call for “declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism,” noting that these “triplets” do not exist in a vacuum and, indeed, are intrinsically inter-related.

 

This is detailed, paint by numbers, if you will, approach to illustrating how Poverty, Racism, and Militarism are still very prevalent in America today.  In sharing Dr King’s vision of conquering these ills, it may be difficult to draw on all of the data contained within this document.  Feel free to find and use the information that applies best to you and your peers.

 

Poverty

 

Speaking in 1961 to the AFL-CIO, Dr King advocated for economic rights when he said, “[Negro] needs are identical with labor’s needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community.

 

41 years after his death, millions of Americans still suffer the economic hardships Dr King fought against in his time.

 

The Military Budget is Costing Us All

We should cut military spending and fund human needs.

 

Defense plus Homeland Security expenditures make up 60% of our total discretionary spending. (Federal Budget)

 

United States spends more than the next 45 highest spending countries in the world combined. (Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation [CACNP])

 

The United States accounts for 48 percent of the world’s total military spending. (CACNP)

The United States spends on its military 5.8 times more than China, 10.2 times more than Russia, and 98.6 times more than Iran. (CACNP)

The United States and its strongest allies (the NATO countries, Japan, South Korea and Australia) spend $1.1 trillion on their militaries combined, representing 72 percent of the world’s total. (CACNP)

 

The preceding figures are astounding and frustrating on their own, but when compared to the needs of American citizens, as described by the following information, they become unconscionable.

 

POVERTY IN THE UNITED STATES (2007 Census data, pg 12)

“Highlights:“

• The official poverty rate in 2007 was 12.5 percent

• In 2007, 37.3 million people were in poverty, up from 36.5 million in 2006.

• Poverty rates in 2007:

         non-Hispanic Whites (8.2 percent)

         Blacks (24.5 percent)

         Asians (10.2 percent)

         Hispanics (21.5 percent in 2007, up from 20.6 percent in 2006).

• The poverty rate increased for children under 18 years old (18.0 percent in 2007, up from 17.4 percent in 2006)

 

Race and Hispanic Origin

 

“At 8.2 percent, the 2007 poverty rate for non-Hispanic Whites was lower than the rate for Blacks and Asians – 24.5 percent and 10.2 percent, respectively. In 2007, non-Hispanic Whites accounted for 43.0 percent of people in poverty while representing 65.8 percent of the total population.

 

Among Hispanics, 21.5 percent (9.9 million) were in poverty in 2007, higher than the 20.6 percent (9.2 million) in 2006. (2007 Census data, pg 12)

 

Home Foreclosures

Bailout Homeowners, Not Bankers

 

The Tulsa World reports “More than 2.3 million American homeowners faced foreclosure proceedings last year, an 81 percent increase from 2007, with the worst yet to come as consumers grapple with layoffs, shrinking investment portfolios and falling home prices.

 

“Nationwide, more than 860,000 properties were actually repossessed by lenders, more than double the 2007 level, according to RealtyTrac, a foreclosure listing firm based in Irvine, Calif., which compiled the figures.

 

“Moody’s Economy.com, a research firm, predicts the number of homes lost to foreclosure is likely to rise by another 18 percent this year before tapering off slightly through 2011.”

 

 

Healthcare

Citizens of the United States want healthcare not warfare.

 

In 2007, there were 45.7million uninsured citizens in the US. In 2007, the uninsured rate for non-hispanic whites was 10.4% whereas the uninsured rate for Blacks was 19.5%, Hispanics, 32.1%. (2007 Census data, pg 19-21)

 

The Massachusetts Campaign for Single-Payer Health Care website summarizes our nation’s health insurance woes very succinctly:

“The way we currently organize health insurance:

– “Is Expensive: The United States spends more per person than any other country on health care.

– “Is Financially Ruinous for Many Households, Businesses, and Government Budgets:  These catastrophic costs are paid disproportionately by low-income people and small businesses.

– “Leads to Very Poor Health Outcomes: Under this system we actually live shorter lives, and receive much less of the care we need.

– “Is Highly Discriminatory: Health Care disparities along lines of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and age are unmatched in the developed world.”

 

 

Green Jobs and the right to join the Union

            In short, we should Send America to Work, Not to War

 

Americans Need Quality Jobs Now

“The Labor Department said that almost 600,000 jobs disappeared in January and that a total of 3.6 million jobs had been lost since the beginning of the recession in December 2007. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, rose to 7.6 percent, from 7.2 percent a month earlier.” (2/7/09, NYTimes)

 

Employee Free Choice Act

Supported by a bipartisan coalition in Congress and millions of workers around the country, the Employee Free Choice Act would level the playing field and put the power to choose a union back where it belongs—in the hands of workers. It will restore workers’ power to bargain for a better life, rebuilding the middle class and strengthening the economy for the long term. (AFL-CIO)

 

Get Rid of Ineffective “Trickle Down” Economics

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has said, “that ‘trickle-down’ economics does not work and has never worked.” He has gone further, “stating that markets alone produce neither efficient nor socially desirable outcomes but instead provoke periodic crises that erase the gains of growth and hit the poor the hardest.”(Upside Down World)

 

The Gravity of Climate Crisis

According to the BBC, former president Bill Clinton “said that the most profound threat to the way of life in the UK and US was not terrorism but global warming.”

 

Why then are we spending more than half of our discretionary federal funds preparing for cold war era theoretical attacks while avoiding and ignoring the very real and present threat that climate change represents?

 

 

We Should Invest in Green

The Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst recently released a report on the benefits of a proposed, government-initiated $100 billion, two-year “green economic recovery program.” This price tag seems staggering at first glance, but when compared to the cost of corporate bailouts, Congress’ springtime economic stimulus package and the Iraq war spending bills, the numbers do not seem so outrageous — especially considering the value that would be generated by such an investment and the longer-term costs of not investing immediately in environmental sustainability.

 

The study recommends investments in:

— Retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency.

— Expanding mass transit and freight rail.

— Constructing “smart” electrical grid transmission systems.

— Wind power.

— Solar power.

— Next-generation biofuels.*

 

These investments would create some 2 million new jobs, stabilize oil costs by reducing overall demand, reduce energy costs for homeowners, increase energy security and provide a sustainable boost to our nation’s economy and infrastructure.

 

In addition to human, environmental and community benefits, there’s also a lot of profit potential in going green. In 2008, the research firm Clean Edge projected revenue growth in wind, solar, biofuels* and fuel cells of “$55.4 billion in 2006 and expanded 40 percent to $77.3 billion in 2007 to grow to $254.5 billion within a decade.” *[There are some concerns with biofuels and please note the absence of recommendations for nuclear power in the preceding comments – for further details about these issues, see the addendum at the bottom of this document.]

 

Some of the skilled professionals required to make this ambitious program work are electricians, welders, machinists, sheet metal workers and mechanics — not to mention civil, environmental, electrical, and chemical engineers.  Many of these skilled professionals are prevalent in the ailing labor sector.

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