City Council voices concern on federal military spending
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Column: City Council voices concern on federal military spending
By: Reyna Crow, Duluth Budgeteer News
In mid-December, the Duluth City Council voted 5 to 3 in favor of adopting a "Resolution regarding state and local government funding and the impact of Pentagon spending." With that, Duluth joined Minneapolis and St. Paul and other Minnesota cities in sending a message to state and federal policy makers demanding a change in spending priorities.
Sponsored by City Councilor Sharla Gardner, the resolution "requests that our state and federal representatives make an effort to shift federal funding priorities from Pentagon spending to domestic economic, social and environmental priorities to better serve local communities."
"(It’s) intended to start a conversation," Gardner said of the resolution, "a real conversation between liberals and conservatives." She cited the need to cut the waste in the military and the "billions of dollars missing in the Iraq war," specifically calling out relationships between government officials and private contractors such as Halliburton as federal concerns we should be discussing at the local level.
A resolution similar to Gardner's appears on the website of the Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project (www.mnasap.org), which seeks endorsements not only from government entities in Minnesota, but from individuals and civic organizations. The website states the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost Duluth taxpayers $450 million. Area residents experience the impact of that spending in reductions to funding for programs such as Community Development Block Grants, Gardner said, which she said locally have gone down to $2.1 million this year from $3.6 million in 2001.
She also said we need to discuss federal spending on earned benefits, such as Social Security and Medicare. Gardner said, "These are not "entitlements," they are things all workers pay into (that elected officials) need to keep their hands off."
Not everyone agrees that the Duluth City Council should be taking up such concerns.
"We need to take a look at defense spending but I am not for drastic cuts at all," said military veteran Richard Ward of Duluth, adding: "So many different resolutions have come before the city council that are just a waste of time.
"I am for a very strong defense; cuts can be made," he continued, noting the country's fiscal year 2013 planned military spending of $653 billion, or 56.94 percent of the entire federal budget. "But they should be made with a scalpel, not a machete. .... (the military is the) reason we have the peace and influence we’ve enjoyed. .... We make a lot of mistakes but our intentions are good."
Even so, as Gardner also pointed out, we are waging what she called “unfunded wars” — launched in Iraq and Afghanistan with no tax increase to pay for them. This has had a strong impact on deficit spending.
Deficit spending is not always a bad thing, for either a household or a government. When the government spends or borrows money on programs that increase our productive capacity as Americans, such as education, health care and infrastructure, we are making investments in our collective future, just as private citizens do borrowing money to earn a degree or buy a home.
But in contrast, while government spending on military programs — war in particular — does channel income to private defense contractors, it is not an investment in our future productive capacity. Deficit spending on destruction, as opposed to production, is a serious economic mistake.
Regardless of the degree to which we personally believe that the military budget should be reduced, we all have a direct interest in how our federal government allocates our tax dollars. Gardner is right when she says that “The deficit they need to be addressing is the one in people’s pocketbooks at the end of the month.”
Our federal elected officials need to hear that.
Duluthian Reyna Crow has a degree in economics from the University of
Tags: community of saint martin Democracy/Activism Economic Justice Education Election Integrity Iraq War jack nelson-pallmeyer Labor & Worker Rights mn asap Peace & Peacemaking pentagon spending resolution Urban Development Veterans & Military war spending
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