Working towards peace and sustainability

Peaceworks’ Message on Tax Day 2016

A slightly shorter version of this message has been printed as a leaflet for Tax Day distribution at the Columbia Post Office. A PDF suitable for printing is available if you CLICK HERE.  

Fair Taxes?  Hmm . . .

Do you like paying taxes? Probably not. Most of us don’t. But responsible citizens generally recognize that we all should be paying our share. The two keys to legitimate taxation: 1) Taxes should be fair, based upon ability to pay, and 2) Taxes should be spent on things that benefit society, enhance our well-being, provide Real Security and create a brighter future for all.

Several decades back, working people shared in a growing prosperity and could look forward to their children doing better than they had. Taxes were progressive, with those who could afford to pay being taxed at significantly higher rates than those with modest incomes.

The combination of massive tax cuts for the wealthy, arcane loopholes, use of tax havens and special treatment for capital gains income have made the system much less fair. And wealth continues to concentrate. From 1979 to 2007  (the eve of the Great Recession) half of all income gains went to the top one percent. And during the recent recovery, more than 90 percent of new income went to the one percent.

The wealthy are making lots more money—and keeping more of it—due to the tax code. This is not only unfair to the 99%, but it is bad for the economy, as working people lack purchasing power, and the wealthy have more money than they can possibly spend. The middle class is being wiped out, and the economy is on the road to stagnation.

A key to reversing this trend is real tax reform that requires those who can afford it to pay their fair share. Peaceworks supports the kinds of tax reform that are promoted in the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ People’s Budget. You can learn more about the People’s Budget 2016 if you CLICK HERE for a summary, or CLICK HERE for a more detailed version.

In addition to reforms that make the tax code more progressive, the People’s budget includes a major revamping of expenditures. If passed, it would significantly benefit working people and those living at the margins, generally make the economy more robust and begin to seriously address the climate crisis.

Tax Dollars Well Spent?

The greatest challenges to our way of life are not coming from ragtag terrorist cells, nor from foreign adversaries who aim to challenge us militarily. Yet we continue to fund the Pentagon at a record clip, spending more than the next seven largest military powers combined. And most of these are U.S. allies. It’s time to cut the bloated military budget.

It’s time to end the endless war and save the tens of billions of dollars wasted on unnecessary and counter-productive foreign interventions. We must also eliminate boondoggle weapons programs whose procurement benefits only the contractors. At the top of this list is the proposal to spend $1 trillion to revamp U.S. nuclear weapons systems.

The real threats we face include massive dislocation from climate change, as well as enormous problems that come from failing schools, unaffordable colleges, aging infrastructure, health problems from  polluted air and water and social dislocation due to growing gaps between rich and poor.

The People’s Budget, which Peaceworks supports, calls for prudent investments in infrastructure and people. Nearly everyone agrees that our water and sewage systems, our energy grid, our highways and other transportation systems all are in serious need of upgrade. Making these investments not only creates needed jobs, but makes our economy more productive. Likewise, providing quality education, from pre-school through university, provides the human capital needed for a truly productive 21st Century economy.

Addressing the reality of climate change is a top-tier priority. We must invest in efficiency improvements and in the rapid transition to a renewables-based energy economy. Some of these investments must come from the private sector, but public funding to make this transition is also needed. Spending to address the existential threat of climate change certainly is necessary and prudent.

We urge you to join us in calling for new priorities such as these. Contact info for elected officials can be accessed if you CLICK HERE.

Voting and Participation in Making Change

Unless you’ve been hibernating deep in a cave for many months, you’re surely aware that we are in an electoral season. You also certainly recognize that there are sharp differences between the candidates and thus the stakes are very high.

We remind you at the get-go that Peaceworks is an educational non-profit and we never endorse, support or oppose candidates for office. We do, however, encourage active citizenship, which includes voting. We hope that all reading this whom are eligible are registered to vote. If you aren’t, or if you’ve moved to another county and need to update your registration, February 17 is the deadline to register so you can vote in Missouri’s March 15 Presidential Primary.

To learn more about the candidates, click on: POSITIONS

Peaceworks was founded on the principles of participatory democracy and grassroots engagement. We see voting as an important part of citizenship, but only one part of many. If you, like us, see critical issues impacting our lives — including climate change, war and peace, economic justice and human rights, just for starters — we hope you agree that we should take every opportunity available to move things forward: increase the peace, correct injustices and heal the Earth. Voting is fast and easy and there’s really no good argument that we’ve heard not to devote the few minutes it takes to go cast your ballot.

This said, voting is to citizenship as recycling is to sustainable living. It’s necessary, but it’s certainly not sufficient. It’s basically the least we can do, and much more is needed. Happily, we can vote for a few minutes, two or three days a year and still have more than 360 days left when we don’t need to go vote and can engage in other forms of citizenship.

Of course, the electoral process involves more than voting. If you feel drawn to a candidate, you can support their campaign by volunteering and/or contributing financially. You can engage friends, neighbors, family, co-workers and others to encourage them to support the candidate. You can also use social media to boost awareness of their candidacy and issue stands.

This sort of grassroots participation is more important now than ever, as it’s a partial antidote to the pernicious role of big money in politics. But, again, it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
Also critical is helping to build and support civil society groups that educate and advocate. What is possible in electoral politics, or in the legislative process, is, at least in part, a function of what the people know, or think they know. Issue-oriented groups, including Peaceworks, have key roles to play in creating a political climate that enables meaningful change. This includes countering the self-serving myths promoted by climate change deniers, war mongers, etc. It also involves opening people’s eyes to the potential for a brighter, more sustainable and just future.

There are dozens of roles one might embrace in the social change process. Making issue concerns visible through demonstrations is important, but so is reaching out to fellow citizens through phonebanks, petition drives, door-to-door canvasses, and more. Activist groups can raise issue concerns via public meetings, speakers, films, classes and more. It takes activist volunteers to put such events together. Then, our elected officials need to hear from us, and letters to officials can also serve as letters to the editor.

Our sincere hope is that 2016 will be a year of positive new beginnings. Hope, however, is not enough. We need to vote, but this, too, is not sufficient. What is really needed—indeed sorely needed—is sustained, activist engagement. We invite and encourage your participation in our work, as well as in the broader movement. Join us, please.

Choosing Inclusion, Peace and Justice—They Go Together.

As our name clearly implies, Peaceworks advocates for peaceful resolution to conflicts. But we understand this requires more than simply opposing war. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. informed us 60 years ago, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it’s the presence of justice.” Essential to Peaceworks’ mission is our work for social and economic justice and the creation of a Peace Economy that works for all.

Among many justice concerns, we are now prioritizing raising the banner of inclusion and the celebration of diversity as a response to the fear-mongering over Islam and terrorism. The near-panic we have seen, since the events late last year in Paris and San Bernardino, is a threat not only to Muslims in this country, who have been subjected to numerous hate crimes, but also to peace around the world and to our very democracy. These events are unfolding at the same time that those living in this country without documents are being threatened with expulsion, a move that appears to be based in thinly veiled racism. It’s time to speak out boldly to challenge the agendas of those who exploit fear and bigotry.

The xenophobic, anti-Muslim, anti-refugee/migrant nativism that is being employed by some in the current election cycle is nothing new in American politics. There have been similar reactions to Irish, Eastern and Southern European and East Asian immigrants dating back at least to 1850. 

Today, there is a well-developed anti-Muslim network of talk show hosts, Rightwing-funded “think tanks,” pressure groups and politicians who continuously gin up fear and loathing. Ditto the anti-immigrant networks. Most susceptible are those less educated who are already insecure in a perilous economy, one in which they’ve been losing ground for many years.
To read the rest of this article, please click HERE
On December 16 Peaceworks co-sponsored "A Community Dialogue of Respect and Compassion: Countering Islamophobia.” This event, held at the Columbia Public Library brought together approximately 85 members of the community for fellowship and solidarity as well as the enhancement of mutual understanding. It is our intention to do more work along these lines in the months ahead. We invite your participation. 

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