How can states like Wisconsin that are now heavily dependent on federal defense spending transition to a more peaceable (and thus sustainable) economy? It’s a good question for the new year, and some local and national organizations (including the WI Network for Peace and Justice, of which I am an individual member) are joining together to spur a state bill that creates a commission to address how the state can help turn swords into ploughshares for the good of companies, workers and the world. Labor unions in Wisconsin and other states have passed resolutions in support of such a plan. Connecticut has already passed a law (“An Act Concerning the Commission on Connecticut’s Future”) forming a peace economy commission while other states, including Wisconsin, are also actively pursuing a similar bill.
And as the Institute for Policy Studies reports, the federal government is getting involved, too, by enlarging the Office of Economic Adjustment to provide assistance to local communities that wish to move away from the “military-industrial complex” and towards healthier, less destructive ways of making a living. IPS has produced what it calls “A Comprehensive Strategy for Defense Transition Assistance” that breaks down what can be done at the federal, state and local levels to foster a truly new, peaceable, stable manufacturing economy.
Of course, the cost of war and preparing for war is a great drain on public resources in general. Using the National Priorities Project calculator, I found that the Dept. of Defense fiscal year 2014 budget will cost Wisconsin taxpayers about $8.22 billion. I need not point out that this $8.22 billion could do a lot of good in Wisconsin simply by staying in Wisconsin. Even half of that amount would be a significant aid to the state’s fiscal harmony and egalitarian progress if put to serving the public good.
The City of Milwaukee adopted a resolution authored by Peace Action Wisconsin back in September which “calls for a redirection of federal spending priorities from foreign military interventions to investing in programs to address critical domestic and urban needs.” This resolution is part of Peace Action’s larger “Move the Money” campaign to make clear that our military budget is, relative to the rest of federal discretionary spending, a rather obese piece of the public pie.
And yet we are told that we as a nation cannot afford to help Americans eat and help Americans get by when good jobs are scarce and help Americans obtain access to decent, humane health care and bolster Social Security. Some say we can’t afford green energy, good public schools, small farms, safe food, healthy children, safe neighborhoods, a living wage for all, or spending on the arts. Peace we have put on austerity, and war we have sent on a decades long, profligate spending spree. In trusts we trust. In guns, above all, we trust.
But it’s a new year. We talk ad nauseam of peace and love but do not put our money and effort where our mouths are. This year is a good year to begin working for and investing in ordinary people and peace work.
(Update: Original photo on this post removed due to a question of proper Wikimedia Commons copyright.)