President Lyndon Baines Johnson inherited our war against the people of Vietnam. He launched a War on Poverty. In order to fund our war against the people of Vietnam, he abandoned our War on Poverty.
In the parlance of the day, he chose guns over butter.
People from Martin Luther King Jr. to Jim Wallis (founder and editor of Sojourners) to Mike Pence (before he became vice president of the U.S.) have called budgets moral documents that should reflect the values of the majority of the American people.
The Donald John Trump budget proposal (keep in mind it is only a proposal as it must be debated and passed by Congress) calls for an increase in funding for the Pentagon. Again. Yet the Pentagon buried an internal report that showed it had wasted $125 billion in administrative costs.
Produced for the Pentagon by McKinsey and Company, the report indicated that the Pentagon employed over 1.1 million contractors, civilians and uniformed personnel to fill office jobs in support of 1.3 million troops on active duty. The 1.3 million active duty troops are the fewest since 1940. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, who authorized the McKinsey study, hid the report from Congress because he was sure Congress would cut Pentagon spending if the report became public. The Pentagon is a corpulent body in serious need of a budget cut.
Yet the Trump plan calls for an increase of $54 billion for the Pentagon. Where will that increase come from? Cuts to funding for low-income mothers and children. Elimination of regional and rural economic investment. Massive cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Elimination of transportation grants used for mass public transit improvements and para-transit for the differently abled. Cutting way back on disease research. Elimination of the Meals on Wheels program. Elimination of a program that helps the poor pay for home energy costs. Cuts to college tuition aid. Elimination of funding for the arts. Cuts to the Community Development Block Grant Program as reported in Wednesday Journal (March 15 issue).
Rather than gutting programs that benefit our neighbors and friends, let’s expand programs and services as if people matter: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Medicare for all (single payer health care); affordable child care. Let’s focus on improving the quality of the lives of the many rather than the most wealthy. Don’t we all want safe neighborhoods with affordable housing? Don’t we all want quality public education? Why sacrifice these things to fund increased militarism?
Rep. Keith Ellison (D, MN) has introduced the Inclusive Prosperity Act (H.R. 1144 / S. 434) which is a financial transaction tax that would levy a small tax (a fraction of one percent) on Wall Street transactions. This “robin hood” tax could raise billions of dollars to invest in the programs listed above.
Representative John Conyers (D, MI) has introduced H.R. 1000, the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act. The goal of this act is to gainfully employ people at living wages to re-build our crumbling infrastructure, including our water delivery systems (think Flint, MI), our schools and hospitals, among other things. I want to thank my representative, Danny K. Davis, for co-sponsoring this progressive bill and urge him to co-sponsor Rep. Ellison’s Inclusive Prosperity Act.
We need to push for a visionary budget that emphasizes community rather than one that promotes conflict.
Tom Broderick is co-chair of Greater Oak Park Democratic Socialists of America.