Members of the New York Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons gathered in Manhattan on August 6, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city of Hiroshima.

(Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Our Budget Priorities Should Reflect the People's Agenda, Not Hasten Nuclear Oblivion

This fiscal year 2024, the United States will spend $94.485 billion on all nuclear weapons programs, an increase of over $4 billion from last year.

Today, April 15, is the day we fund our nation's priorities as determined by our elected leaders.

Last month the United Way released its 2023 211 Impact Survey of roughly 16 million requests, offering insights into the trends and challenges faced by households and communities across the country. Topping the list were housing, utilities, and food assistance as the top needs of people seeking support nationwide. Similarly, a Gallop poll released last month listed the economy, inflation, hunger and homelessness, and healthcare costs in the top five priorities.

Where do nuclear weapons fit in? They're not even on the radar of most people, and particularly not mainstream news outlets. Yet this fiscal year 2024, the United States will spend $94.485 billion on all nuclear weapons programs. This is an increase of over $4 billion from last year. This expenditure is for weapons that can never be used without posing a threat to all of humanity. Yet these expenditures continue to grow out of control, year over year. It is fueled by the mythology of nuclear deterrence, the major driver of the arms race. Not to be outdone, every country feels driven to exceed the nuclear forces and capabilities of their adversaries. We spiral out of control toward nuclear oblivion, ever increasing the potential for nuclear war either by intent, miscalculation, or accident.

The nuclear abolition movement is here and growing.

Nuclear weapons threaten us every moment of every day. There are 12,119 weapons in the global nuclear arsenals. We know that the use of even a tiny fraction, less than one-half of 1% of these weapons over a single populated region, could cause catastrophic climate change lasting years and potentially putting 2 billion people at risk.

With this nuclear famine knowledge, the new arms race shifts from the paradigm of (MAD) Mutually Assured Destruction to (SAD) Self Assured Destruction. These weapons rob our communities of precious resources that could be redirected to the many needs that our communities cry out for. The very existence of nuclear weapons and programs is an economic, environmental, social, and racial justice issue. Yet this is a situation that does not have to be.

Back From the Brink is a growing movement across this nation. It calls for a no-first-use policy, ending sole presidential authority to launch nuclear weapons, ending "hair trigger alert," canceling the plans to replace the entire arsenal with new weapons, and most importantly, resumption of negotiations for a multilateral, verifiable treaty for the elimination of nuclear weapons. This campaign is supported by U.S. House Resolution 77, which embraces the goals and provisions of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and each of the precautionary measures in the Back From the Brink campaign. The resolution currently has 44 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives.

This past year has seen heightened awareness of the threat of nuclear weapons moving into the mainstream with the release of the Academy Award-winning film Oppenheimer;The New York Times series "At the Brink," with an in-depth overview of the risk and potential impacts of nuclear war; last week's Boston Globe editorial "We Need to Start Worrying About the Bomb;" and the recently published books Nuclear War: A Scenario by Annie Jacobsen and Countdown: The Blinding Future of Nuclear Weapons by Sarah Scoles.

The nuclear abolition movement is here and growing. It is time for our budget priorities to reflect the people's agenda and to abolish nuclear weapons before they abolish us.

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