We support humane, people-first national spending

Cleveland Peace Action’s statement, July 25, 2023

The Poor People’s Campaign has just ended its three day congress in Washington, DC. Fifty-five years after Martin Luther King, Jr., initiated the first Poor’s People Campaign, the issues surrounding the morality of our national budget remain largely the same. Even then, King made the connection between our wars and the depth of American poverty. In reference to the war of his day in Vietnam, he noted that “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift, is approaching spiritual death.”

Our budgets reflect our values as a nation. Even after the end of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there continues to be an emphasis on spending our money on the instruments of death at the expense of poor and working people here in the U.S. 

                                             Source: National Priorities Project

This May’s budget deal reflected the current national priorities of our two political parties. As we faced a shutdown of the federal government which would have put millions of U.S. citizens in dire straits, the cuts the parties agreed on were aimed at social programs. There was never any discussion of cutting the bloated military budget. The “budget deal” melodrama resulted in raising the debt limit to, in part, accommodate a bipartisan, ironclad increase in U.S. military spending even as Congress reactionarily cracks down on the poor. The budget deal actually raised military spending 3.5% to $886 billion. 

At the same time, the budget deal cut health and social programs to poor and working U.S. Americans. Unused COVID funds, for example, will no longer be earmarked for pandemic prevention, which health officials warn that this would hamper the country in replenishing our vaccine stockpile and essential equipment. It also put greater burdens on those receiving help under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), puts the squeeze back on working Americans who have student loans, and loosens environmental requirements to make it easier for fossil fuel companies to start new projects, further putting everyone’s and the planet’s health at risk.

                                                           Source: Statistica.com

Like Martin Luther King, Cleveland Peace Action sees “war as an enemy of the poor,” and so CPA calls on our political leaders to prioritize a people-first budget that focuses on the needs of our most vulnerable citizens and for all working Americans. The first priority is for our political leaders to conduct a serious, meaningful debate on the excessive military budget and the diversion of tax dollars that prioritize peace and human development: employment, social programs, education, science, the environment and human welfare. 

In his oft-cited farewell address, President Dwight Eisenhower warned our nation of the growing influence of the military-industrial complex; the ever-growing influence of munitions companies in the spending priorities of the federal government. While Eisenhower recognized our defense needs, he noted we have to be aware of “ how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.” The “potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists” in how we prioritize our spending. 

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