Friday, July 10, 2020

Grounded… or Flying by the Seat of our Pants? & Bewildering Federal Budget

By Chrissy Kirchhoefer; reprinted with permission; first printed for the NWTRCC (National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee) newsletter June/ July 2020

An increased number of military planes have been flying over the US and targeting cities, often in clusters, to show appreciation to “front-line workers.” 
The Pentagon cooked up the scheme of “Operation America Strong” to mobilize the military in what some refer to as the “war on the coronavirus.”  The operation was to honor the sacrifices of health care workers who have faced new challenges in their profession in caring for those with COVID-19.  The risks to their lives have increased as the availability of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) has decreased.

The same weapons platforms that have bombed civilians across the world were sent to fly over hospitals in the US that cannot even provide health care workers with masks that should cost $1.27.  The most expensive bomber was the nuclear-weapons capable B2 Stealth Bomber flying out of Whiteman Air Force base in Missouri at $122,311 per hour (in 2017 estimates).  At top speed, a F-35A jet ignites more fuel in a single hour than the average car owner consumes in two years.  It seems that no area of the U.S. has been spared these displays of affection with many of the targeted cities roped together just as would be the case with a nuclear bomb or flying mission to destroy multiple targets.

While the military had stated in their press release that they wanted “to thank first responders, essential personnel, and military service members as we collectively battle the spread of COVID-19,” it seems more as a way of justifying that almost half of U.S. taxpayer monies go to warfare.  The US military didn’t seem to get the memo or want to acknowledge that the current U.S. Ceasefire defines war as non-essential activity .  In March, U.N. Secretary General Antonio called for a  world-wide end of armed conflict during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as an end to economic warfare.  More than 70 countries signed onto the statement.  The United States blocked the vote before the U.N.

Meanwhile the New York Times recently published a piece on homelessness, “America’s Cities Could House Everyone If They Chose To.”  The article stated, “The nations’ homeless population could be housed for less than the price of one aircraft carrier.”  That seems to bear repeating- for LESS than one military expenditure, all of the people living on the streets of the cities that the bomber jets are flying over could have homes.  Imagine that $13 billion used to meet basic human needs.

Despite concerns over the coronavirus, there has been a proposal to replicated the “Salute to America “ military parade on July 4th, 2020.  This year that would be before Tax Day.  Increasingly, people are becoming more aware of the catastrophic funding priorities in the US and the deadly consequences.

Chrissy Kirchhoefer is the Outreach Consultant for the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) and has been a war tax resister since 1999. She has traveled to Iraq with Creative Voices for Nonviolence in conjunction with Veterans for Peace’s Iraqi water project. Kirchhoefer also worked with War Resister’s League in the creation of their “Merchants of Death” speaker series and has previously been involved in direct action against militarism as a member of the St. Francis Catholic Worker community in Columbia, Missouri.

Bewildering Federal Budget

By: shulasmith eagle; reprinted with permission; printed originally for the NWTRCC (National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee) newsletter June/ July 2020

I recently read a guest editorial in my local newspaper that noted the startling fact that there is a  “$437 million budget for the military’s 130 marching bands.”  Setting aside the question of why each band needs to cost over $3 million, this fact got me interested in taking a look at federal budget priorities compared to mine.

As a Quaker (we are known for our peace witness and works), I have long been aware that the U.S. budget is heavily tilted towards war.  The War Resister’s League pie chart shows that military and veteran’s services totaled 48% of the 2018 US budget.  The National Priorities Project shows the 2020 budget as allocating 55% for the military.  For this budget I will include expenditures for Social Security and Medicare, even though these are not part of the normal taxes dues on April 15. (July 15)  When these are included in the federal budget, the military portion of the budget drops to about 23%.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal expenditures this year will total $4.6 trillion (including Social Security and Medicare). 

If I compare this country’s budget to mine (major items only), it would looksomething like the following.  To make it easy, let’s imagine I have annual income of $50,000.  (Utilities are omitted- trying to match up utilities with the national budget was too complicated to be accurate.)

                                                                                                Federal Gov’t.                                   Home Budget
Food                                                                                      5%                                                          $2,500
Housing                                                                                2%                                                          $1000
Medical                                                                                33%                                                        $16,500
Transportation                                                                  0.5%                                                      $250
Interest on Debt                                                               3.5%                                                      $1,750
Allowance for Children/ Child care/
Adults Unable to Work                                                   33%                                                        $16,500
Military                                                                                 23%                                                        $11,500

Regarding the 23% for the military portion of the federal budget, that means I’ll spend $11,500 for:
-training my teenagers and young adult children to murder people on the other side of town
-Hiring people to find, force, or punish my children who try to refuse this training
-Making or buying the murder weapons
-Maintaining physical and mental hospitals for my children for the rest of their lives (after they return from the killing.)
-Financial support for the spouses and kids of my children who get murdered themselves
-Marching bands to lift the spirits of the fighting children
-Assassinations of troublemakers and leaders I don’t like.  (Officially I don’t do that).

Does this budget make sense to you?  Does it match your values?  Does it match the reality of your expenses (2% for housing, 5% for food, 23% or more for security and fighting)?  Shouldn’t our government share our priorities for using our money, since it is our money that “they” are spending?

Does this budget encourage the values you are trying to instill in your children?  I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to spend even one quarter of my income on killing other people or dealing with the consequences of that.  I don’t feel it makes me more secure.  It makes me less secure, because when we threaten or harm others, they have the tendency to threaten and harm us in return.

“Do unto others” and “Thou shalt not kill” are universal concepts.  Do we spend our money- earned with our energy, our time, our lives, in a way that reflects what we say we believe?

Look at what you spend  most of your money on.  What would our society be like if the numbers were switched around so the government prioritized housing, food, cradle-to-grave healthcare, and education?

How much of that $1,058 trillion military budget is actually making us safer?  What might we do with even $1 billion for peacemaking?  Can we make a Department of Peace with equal funding as our combined departments for war?

Shall we dream big?

Shulamith Eagle is a long-time conscientious objector to paying for war. She is on the steering committee of the War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund. She is an interfaith spiritual director and energy work healer. Shulamith lives in Middlebury, Vermont.

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