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Tax Day in America: A People Without a Vision Will Perish

How does it feel to know that nearly 60% of your tax dollars this year will pay for our present and future wars, not for your family’s or communities’ needs?

Our nation is in trouble, and the diagnosis is as old as the Bible, which warns that “A people without a vision will perish”. Our nation has lost its way, and its people are in trouble. People continue to lose their jobs, services, and economic security, while we spend ever greater sums in the disastrous pursuit of global military supremacy.

Consider: the combined debt of our fifty states is $140 billion. That’s a lot of money, about what we spend annually for the self-defeating “wars of choice” in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya. They will likely have cost $3 trillion by the time our grandchildren finish paying for them.

Our nation spends roughly as much for war and war preparations as the rest of the world combined. Does that buy real security? Our people suffer the highest infant mortality rate of any industrialized developed nation, and infant morality is a key indicator of a nation’s societal and future economic health. We’ve suffered a tsunami of housing foreclosures, and we have yet to find our way out of the “jobless recovery” from the country’s greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

What about the cost health care and human services? That’s just 7% of the Federal government’s discretionary spending. Education: what our children need to find jobs and a critical foundation of any democracy? That’s just 6%, and unlike other “developed” nations, most of our graduates begin adulthood with staggering debt from their college loans.

Between tax cuts for the rich and continuing increases in military spending, our communities have been set on the path of de-development, with catastrophic consequences. With the national cuts in block cuts and other spending reductions mean that in the world’s richest nation, we must suffer cuts in health care and programs for the elderly and disabled. Education is increasingly essential, but head start is being reduced, teachers are being laid off by the thousands, class sizes growing, and Pell Grant loans that working and middle class students need for college are withering. Police and fire fighters are losing their jobs, while job training programs are cut.


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The budget surplus that President Bush the Lesser inherited from President Clinton didn’t evaporate magically. It was mugged in the back alleys and dark corners of the White House, Congress the Pentagon and K Street. Bush’s tax write off for the super rich, extended by the last lame duck Congressional session, took $2.5 trillion from our communities. $2.5 trillion! That’s quite enough to ensure decent housing and health care for all, to educate our children, to build the infrastructure fueled by sustainable energy that our nation needs to be competitive in the 21st century, and to be paying down the national debt.

The Pentagon’s budget, far and away the world’s largest a decade ago, has doubled since 9-11. Meanwhile our people enjoy less real security. Despite President Obama’s pledge to work for a nuclear weapons free world, $185 billion has been committed to modernize the country’s preparations for nuclear war. Plans are afoot to replace our fleets of Trident nuclear submarines and nuclear bombers. Two decades after the Cold War, we still spend more than $100 billion a year to deploy hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops around the world on an estimated 1,000 foreign military bases, including more than 100 across Japan and more than twice that number in Europe.

When your only tool is a hammer, every problem is a nail. Instead of seeking diplomatic or nonviolent solutions to the Libyan crisis, for example urging our Turkish allies to mediate the crisis or urging the Pope, the heads of the Councils of Churches and other renowned religious leaders to serve as human shields, we launched hundreds of cruise missiles and B-2 bomber attacks in yet another unnecessary and very uncertain “war of choice.”

Fifty years ago, outgoing Republican President Dwight Eisenhower warned that the “subversive tentacles” of the “military industrial complex” created to fight two world wars were undermining U.S. democracy. A half century later they are undermining our real security as well.

As anyone who has traveled or lived in Western Europe knows, by cutting our military spending we can enjoy a higher and more secure standard of living. It’s time to refocus our vision and to reorder our priorities.

Joseph Gerson

Joseph Gerson

Dr. Joseph Gerson is Executive Director of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security and Vice-President of the International Peace Bureau. His most recent book is Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World. His previous books include The Sun Never Sets and With Hiroshima Eyes.

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