WASHINGTON - January 21 - Far from the rosy picture the President paints, the current state of the union is marked by almost unparalleled unemployment, a multibillion dollar deficit, millions of people without health insurance or affordable housing, a misguided foreign policy and arguably the worst assaults to our constitution in history. In his speech, Mr. Bush glossed over the human suffering his foreign and domestic policies have created.
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), an internationally recognized Quaker humanitarian Service organization, is uniquely qualified to speak concerning U.S. domestic policy and ongoing efforts in war-torn Iraq. The Service Committee, in its historic role of mending lives shattered by World Wars I and II, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 along with the British Friends Service Council, on behalf of all Quakers for peace building and humanitarian service. AFSC's quick reaction to the internment of Japanese Americans at the beginning of World War II, helped aid, educate and relocate thousands of innocent American citizens who were unfairly targeted, corralled and warehoused because of race.
True national security is economic security. Government must play an essential role in helping meet the need for affordable housing, quality childcare, well-funded public education, and strong safety-net programs such as TANF (welfare). To address growing inequality and economic divisions in our country, we must raise the minimum wage, repeal the tax cuts for the wealthiest families, and enact trade policies that value workers over excess corporate profits. Americans need health coverage, jobs with decent wages, and good educational opportunities, if our nation is to keep its people safe and out of harm's way.
Today, over 8.7 million Americans are unemployed, including almost two million who've been unemployed for more than 6 months. Over 90,000 laid-off workers have lost their federal benefits every week since December 21, when Congress failed to extend long-term unemployment insurance. America has lost 2.7 million jobs since March 2001. The "jobless recovery" since the recession officially ended in November 2001 has made for the worst hiring slump since the Great Depression.
The tax cuts enacted last year - which the Administration wants to make permanent - will rob the U.S. treasury of $1.7 trillion over 10 years. Although Bush promised that these cuts would help the economy grow by 305,000 jobs a month, only a fraction of those jobs have actually surfaced. In fact, our economy grew by only 1,000 new jobs during the entire month of December, compared to about 1,000 jobs every three hours during the Clinton years.
These cuts have led to $260 billion in lost revenue last year, at a time when more and more Americans can't afford the basic necessities of life, such as food, utilities, housing, and health care, and the states are facing their worst fiscal crisis in 50 years. U.S. trade policies have led to a hemorrhaging of jobs - not just in manufacturing, but high-tech and service jobs as well.
This year, the United States launched a pre-emptive and illegal invasion of Iraq, conducted with little support from the international community and justified by the alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction, the existence of which has yet to be verified. The occupation has led to increased violence and delayed the emergence of self-governance.
We parlayed a war on terror into a war against our constitution, robbing decent and hardworking Americans of their civil rights and civil liberties. Our reckless foreign policy turned the outpouring of goodwill and support of people around the globe after the tragedy of 9/11 to widespread anger and animosity, even among our traditional allies.
In November, in spite of deep domestic budget cuts, national deficits, and unmet needs at home, the U.S. Congress authorized $87 billion for military operations and reconstruction efforts in Iraq. This was the largest special request for money in the history of the United States. Yet, the $21 billion it provided for reconstruction is only a fraction of what will be needed. The end is not in sight.
The U.S. defense budget was more than the combined military budgets of the next dozen nations. Next year, our spending will increase to over $400 billion dollars. Our military budget continues to grow, while domestic programs must beg for money.
Instead of no child left behind in educational opportunities, our schools have become another recruitment tool for the big guns in the military. Critical educational programs are not adequately funded and may be slashed in the wake of billions of dollars in projected deficits.
And the casualties of the war and occupation continue to mount. More than 500 U.S. soldiers and thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed since the invasion. Thousands of soldiers were wounded in combat, many suffering severe and debilitating injuries. Some of these soldiers will no longer be employable, either by the military they placed their trust in, or the civilian job market they left behind. Many will be eligible only for discretionary disability pay from their service branch and perhaps social security benefits due to their inability to work civilian jobs. The immediate economic impact on the families of these soldiers could have long reaching effects. Because of ongoing operations in Iraq, the Army, for example, has prevented the retirement and scheduled discharges of more than 40,000 soldiers, proving harmful to the economic security of many reservists and their families and resulting in the loss of businesses, jobs and livelihoods.
America will not win the war on terror by playing bully to the rest of the world. We cannot ease our own suffering by lavishing destruction on other nations, cultures or people. Securing the homeland means securing the right of ordinary people to jobs, a living wage and the basic necessities of life, including food, utilities, housing, and health care. We can't saddle mind-boggling debt on future generations, or use the middle class and the poor to finance tax breaks for the wealthy.
With national headquarters in Philadelphia and regional offices in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Des Moines, New York City, Pasadena, San Francisco, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Seattle, Washington, The American Friends Service Committee works for peace, justice and reconciliation in 22 countries of the world.