Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

'Bring Our War Dollars Home'

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

'Bring Our War Dollars Home'

Article excerpt

Local governments push for Pentagon spending cuts.

YEAR AFTER YEAR, more than 50 percent of the federal discretionary budget goes to the Pentagon, while only one-third of the non-defense discretionary budget is invested in struggling states and communities-a contrast at the heart of this years congres- sional budget battles. And yet for decades the Pentagon budget has remained sacro- sanct while local communities suffer.

From the ground up, activists around the country are fighting back. They are striving to save their communities by calling for cuts in what they perceive as a bloated Pentagon budget-starting in some of the most unlikely places: local city councils.

My organization-the Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project (MN ASAP)-is just one of many groups around the country seeking to shift federal spend- ing priorities from preparing for and waging war to meeting local needs. Through a sim- ple resolution, we build political support by asking churches, organizations, city councils, and state legislators to endorse our initia- tive to cut Pentagon spending and invest in communities.

In 2011, the Minnesota state government shut down over disputes as to how to address a two-year, $5 billion budget shortfall. Yet Minnesota taxpayers spent nearly $3.5 bil- lion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2011 alone, bringing total Minnesota tax- payer spending for these wars to $40 billion, according to the National Priorities Project. As in other states, many cities and commu- nities in Minnesota are managing austerity budgets, tightening their belts and laying off police, firefighters, and teachers-all while the Pentagon budget remains unchecked.

Many have felt for years that military spending is weakening the country and remains disconnected from actual security needs. Adm. Michael Mullen, then-chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN in 2010 that "The most significant threat to our national security is our debt." Investments in education, infrastructure, and jobs are what we need to make our nation secure, not excessive spending on Pentagon programs fraught with graft and waste.

Why can't the Pentagon budget be reduced? The usual reason given is the jobs created by Pentagon spending. …

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