Greenfield Recorder, April 10, 2023
by Pat Hynes
April, the month tax filings are due, prompts us to ponder what our income taxes pay for. Are they used to provide all citizens sufficient resources and public goods for human security and well-being — the core of our national security?
How much of our taxes pay for radically reducing climate change emissions and protection of nature; for equal quality education for all; for providing health care for all; for housing the poor and homeless and eliminating hunger; for safe bridges, roads and rail and adequate public transportation; for prioritizing diplomacy and peace in the world so as to avert war and reverse our decline of democracy? Aren’t these our deepest security guarantees?
Reviewing the federal discretionary budget for the year 2022, here is a snapshot of our government’s values.
For every $100 spent on the Pentagon, for war, weapons, counterterrorism, military personnel, and nearly 800 military bases in 80 countries on six continents, an estimated:
* $ 2 is spent on food and agriculture.
* $ 6 is spent on transportation.
* $ 6 is spent on international affairs, a fraction of which includes diplomacy.
* $ 8 is spent on energy and environment.
* $ 10 is spent on health.
* $ 14 is spent on education.
* $ 14 is spent on housing and community.
Would you call this budget moral? Consider these facts. In March of this year, nearly 30 million poor people had their food assistance benefits severely reduced, while inflationary food prices have grown by 10%.
Fifty-two percent of children under the age of 18 in the U.S. today are poor or low-income; and the majority of our country’s poor are women and children.
Between 40 and 50% of people report having difficulty paying for a $400 medical emergency expense; 8% have no health insurance.
Adult literacy in the U.S., at 79%, falls below many countries, including Cuba and Azerbaijan, each near 100% literacy. Among the 78 nations that measure 15 year-old students’ academic performance in math, reading and science, the most recent 2018 PISA results show that the United States ranks lower than many countries.
America’s wars on drugs, crime, terrorism and “illegal” immigrants — along with our decades-long military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan — have created a weapons-saturated politics of policing, border control and mass incarceration. To date, the U.S. has spent over $1.6 billion on the militarization of police with hand-me-down military-grade weapons, vehicles and equipment. Research suggests that officers with military hardware and mindsets will resort to violence more quickly and often.
The climate crisis has receded to a low-priority, almost nonexistent background since the war in Ukraine, while this war and the reconstruction of Ukraine postwar will add immense fuel emissions to an already deeply endangered world, one that climate scientists see as hurtling toward catastrophe.
War is a climate killer, and the Pentagon is the largest institutional climate criminal in the world.
Regarding diplomacy as a priority to avert war, U.S. and Russian officials met on March 2 for the first time since the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, for less than 10 minutes. During this same period, the U.S. has given some $47 billion in military aid to Ukraine. With its scrawny and starved diplomacy, our government has no interest in negotiating an end to the brutal war in Ukraine, stating openly it wants to “weaken Russia.”
Simultaneously, the U.S. threatens war against China, threats that began a few years ago against our largest economic competitor and have only grown and militarized. As millions of people are increasingly traumatized from intensifying climate emergencies, our government has insanely enlisted alliances with NATO, Japan, South Korea and Australia to prepare for war against China.
No one benefits more from wars than salivating arms dealers who have shrewdly located facilities in every state and not surprisingly won inflation relief in 2022 from Congress.
How our government coddles its arms dealers, which account for a record 40% of the world’s weapons exports in the years 2018-22! The State Department negotiates these weapons sales to more than 100 countries, while sparing only 10 minutes to meet with Russia over the war in Ukraine. No surprise that our hyper-militarized government ranks 129th out of 163 countries in the 2022 Global Peace Index, Maybe, just maybe, had we a parallel Department of Peace, empowered and funded equally with the original Department of War — as a signer of the Declaration of Independence proposed — we might have halved the 392 military interventions engaged in since 1776 and excelled in diplomacy and peace negotiations as much as we do in waging war.
“Peace, not war, is the norm of human life,” proclaims the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement. Why cannot our federal government and its budget internalize this wisdom?
Pat Hynes is a member of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice, which is holding a Tax Day speak out, with music, informative flyers and signs on Saturday April 15, from 11 a.m. to noon on the Greenfield Common. Join us.