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"Each of us has a role to play," Dodge writes. "It’s time to demand an end to the nuclear threat that endangers our children and everything we care about." (Image: SIPRI)

Taxes, Death, and Nuclear Weapons

Every dollar spent on nuclear weapons is a dollar taken from our children and the meeting of the basic needs of our citizens

Robert Dodge

We live in a world where as Benjamin Franklin said in 1789, “Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” That statement remains true and the paradox today is the amount our taxes pay toward the death and destruction of mankind through the continued funding of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons have now been declared illegal by last summer’s U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This treaty bans the most dangerous weapons of mass destruction and places them as all other WMD’s, including biological weapons, chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions. Once fifty nations have ratified the treaty, it becomes international law ninety days later outlawing nuclear weapons and making countries that maintain them outlaw nations in breach of international law and actors outside of the international norm.  Unfortunately, the United States is leading this pack of outlaw nations with its Trump Nuclear Doctrine and new arms race guaranteeing that all of the other nuclear nations will continue to follow suit.

"We exist every moment of every day under the threat of nuclear annihilation. Either by intent, miscalculation or accident. Yet this is a future that does not have to be."

This past year has seen significant progress and challenges toward the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons. Even though the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was passed last July by a majority of the world’s nations, in view of international rhetoric and posturing, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the nuclear doomsday clock minute hand forward to two minutes till midnight, nuclear Armageddon, the closest since World War II. Aware of these realities, this past week, the city council of the small California town of Ojai unanimously passed a Nuclear-Free Zone Resolution supporting the Ban Treaty and calling for divestment from institutions and companies that are involved in the financing, manufacture, development, stockpiling and testing of nuclear weapons.

This Tuesday, April 17, the United States will fund the 2018 budget through its federal tax dollars. As each spring brings forth hope and new life so does the funding of our priorities help realize these hopes. As the Rev. Jim Wallis says, “Budgets are moral documents.” Yet, seemingly oblivious to these hopes and desires, the US continues to march forward in a new nuclear arms race.

Each year Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles calculates the costs of all nuclear weapons programs to communities across the nation. The Nuclear Weapons Community Costs Project has identified that this tax day the United States will spend $62.7 billion on these now illegal weapons.

This renewed arms race and its funding deprives our nation and future of the precious resources we need to address our most critical problems. From the poorest county in our nation, Buffalo County, South Dakota with a population of 1,999 and a per capita income of $10, 763 spending $138,411 to a wealthier state of California contributing more than $8 billion on weapons that can never be used, these are dollars that are woefully misdirected.

Every dollar spent is a dollar taken from our children and the meeting of the basic needs of our citizens.

Today our fiscally conservative leaders would do well to follow the words of their hero Ronald Reagan when he said, “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Yet who among our present leadership has the courage and understanding to stand up and realize these wise words.

We exist every moment of every day under the threat of nuclear annihilation. Either by intent, miscalculation or accident. Yet this is a future that does not have to be.

Ultimately it will take the people of the United States to follow the lead of Ojai, California and demand that our leaders work to fulfill their legally bound responsibility per the 48-year-old Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to work in good faith to abolish nuclear weapons. Fortunately there is a movement occurring across this nation to speak up and demand action and divest from these weapons and move back from the brink of nuclear war. This resolution at PreventNuclearWar.org endorses renouncing first-use of nuclear weapons, ending sole presidential authority to launch nuclear war, moving our nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert, cancelling the $1.7 trillion new arms race and endorsing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Each of us has a role to play. It’s time to demand an end to the nuclear threat that endangers our children and everything we care about.


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Robert Dodge

Robert Dodge

Robert Dodge, a frequent Common Dreams contributor, writes as a family physician practicing in Ventura, California. He is the Co-Chair of the Security Committee of National Physicians for Social Responsibility and also serves as the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles.

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