Social movement leaders from groups across the progressive spectrum launched a campaign on Tuesday denouncing President Donald Trump's proposed $54 billion increase in the U.S. military budget, which is coming at the expense of the environment, education, human and civil rights protections, and public health.
The #No54BillionforWar effort is launching on the 50-year anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence," which warned 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."
But Trump's proposal, which pays for increased military spending by slashing everything from the Environmental Protection Agency to diplomacy, "does exactly that," said Phyllis Bennis, who directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Under Trump's budget, she told Common Dreams, "war wins out"—over pretty much everything.
"[T]he Trump administration plans to take much of their $54 billion gift for the Pentagon from the budgets of the Environmental Protection Agency (even threatening to shut down its already under-funded environmental justice office), the Department of Health and Human Services (slashing family planning and anti-violence-against-women programs), from the State Department (thus privileging war over diplomacy), and foreign aid (so that the wealthiest country in human history turns its back on the world's most desperate)," reads the coalition statement published Tuesday.
"Using just a fraction of the proposed military budget, the U.S. could provide free, top-quality, culturally competent, and equitable education from pre-school through college and ensure affordable comprehensive healthcare for all," it points out. "We could provide wrap-around services for survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence; replace mass incarceration with mass employment, assure clean energy and water for all residents and link our cities by new fast trains. We could double non-military U.S. foreign aid, wipe out hunger worldwide. The list of possibilities is long."
Signatories to the statement include:
- Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow;
- May Boeve, executive director, 350.org;
- Medea Benjamin, co-founder, CodePink;
- Naomi Klein, author, This Changes Everything;
- Judith LeBlanc, director, Native Organizers Alliance;
- Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate;
- Michael T. McPhearson, executive director, Veterans For Peace;
- Stephen Miles, director, Win Without War;
- Nabil Mohamad, vice-president, Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee;
- Terry O'Neill, president, National Organization for Women;
- Josh Ruebner, policy director, U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights;
- Opal Tometi, co-founder, Black Lives Matter;
- Vince Warren, executive director, Center for Constitutional Rights;
- Cindy Wiesner, national coordinator, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
Reflecting on make-up of the broad coalition, CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin told Common Dreams: "We have been trying for years—many years—to get a broad-based consensus among social justice and environmental groups that the bloated military budget was affecting all of their work."
Now, under Trump, she said, "it seems like people are getting it."
What's more, she added, "I think this will help us get a seat at the table, [to] get recognition...in terms of the anti-war movement being recognized as a key component of the resistance movement."
Already, she said, the coalition sees opportunities to simultaneously advance local resolutions opposing the flow of tax dollars toward the military alongside initiatives like the ACLU's "Freedom Cities" project. The campaign will also have a presence at the 2017 U.S. Conference of Mayors in Miami Beach, where Benjamin hopes mayors will recognize the importance of funneling money toward healthcare, infrastructure, and education rather than the Pentagon.
As the statement declares: "We can do this. Reverse the flow. No walls, No war, No warming!"
Follow the campaign under the hashtag #No54BillionforWar: