Peace Economy? What is it? Why do we need one? How do we get there? These are some of the questions Peaceworks is out to explore in 2012. We encourage you to join us in working for a sustainable economy that puts all to work with meaningful, productive employment.
Today’s economy is highly militarized, but it wasn’t always so. Prior to World War II, the United States demobilized after each war. For the past seven decades, however, our economy has been on a permanent wartime footing. We’ve squandered tax dollars like a drunken sailor on shore leave. While our population is only 4.5 percent of humanity, we pay for nearly half of the planet’s military expenditures. U.S. bases ring the world—more
than a thousand of them—with a presence on every continent, on every ocean, in the skies and outer space.
Hundreds of billions expended each year on the Pentagon has led to under-investment in other areas. We see crumbling infrastructure, failing schools, and a nation falling far behind Europe or China in efforts to transition to sustainable energy technologies. And our wars and weapons are not making us more secure.
Overall military spending, not counting interest on the debt, is now in the range of $870 billion a year. When we factor out the $117 billion earmarked for the Afghan and Iraq wars, our non-war 2012 military spending level, inflation adjusted, is higher than all military spending during the peak of the Vietnam War (when we had more than half a million troops deployed in southeast Asia). For more info, visit National Priorities Project and War Resisters League.
Diverting so much money, year after year, away from productive investment is deeply problematic. It’s clearly not our only economic problem, however. A Peace Economy needs to be a Just Economy. Currently, we face a seriously flawed tax code and a structural deficit. Tax cuts for the wealthy leave us with too little revenue to pay our bills. We face growing inequality, with the growth in income over the past three decades going overwhelmingly to the richest Americans. Meanwhile, working class and middle income citizens face mountains of debt and, if they are lucky enough to be employed, a paycheck that barely keeps pace with inflation.
A movement for a Peace Economy would address these concerns and reject the bipartisan push for austerity. While selective cuts in spending, particularly in the military budget, are desirable, the effect of general spending cuts, at a time when the economy is already severely depressed, is a prolonged period of profound dislocation and real suffering for tens of millions of people.
As Sen. Bernie Sanders said recently in a Senate Budget Committee hearing, “This country does in fact have a serious deficit problem, but the reality is that the deficit was caused by two wars — unpaid for. It was caused by huge tax breaks for the wealthiest people in this country. It was caused by a recession as result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street. And if those are the causes of the deficit, I will be damned if we’re going to balance the budget on backs of the elderly, the sick, the children, and the poor. That’s wrong.”
We invite you to join Peaceworks in our work for a more peaceful, just and sustainable economy. Please check out our upcoming Peace Economy Film Series and our People’s Economics class. Consider joining our Peace & Justice Committee. Please contact us for more info. Positive change will only come when enough of us seriously engage the system in a sustained way. Join us.