2010 elections key to building a green, demilitarized economy


In a Dec. 4 editorial entitled, "The Welfare State and Military Power," the Wall Street Journal actually said something I agree with: you can't have both guns and butter.

Of course, the WSJ warned increased domestic spending advocated by the Obama administration inevitably crowds out military spending. If the current health care reform passes, the American people will come to expect a new role for government.

Left unchecked, the WSJ says, the US will end up like most European countries, which spend a greater share of their GDP on health care, pensions and jobless benefits and less on the military. Europeans prefer their benefits and have no stomach for foreign occupation.

The WSJ maintains US power globally is dependent on its military might. By following the path of greater domestic spending, the Obama administration is risking our status as a global power.

I'm reminded the WSJ reflects ultra right wing sections of the US ruling class who seek US corporate global domination, backed by unrestrained military might. These forces dominated US politics for 30 years and were defeated in the 2008 elections and are bludgeoning the Obama administration.

There are also contending forces within the Obama administration including more sober minded US ruling class circles that see new global realities. The American people can be decisive in shaping the outcome of this struggle, beginning with the 2010 elections.

Today's world is far different from post WW II. New global trade blocks are forming; new powers like China, India and Brazil are rising, and new crises have developed like climate change, which require global collective action. It's a world US capitalism must accommodate itself to or risk deeper conflict with.

The dispute between the US and the new progressive government in Japan illustrates this new reality. Japan has been saddled with a US military presence since World War II, including 47,000 troops and scores of bases. A majority of Japanese wants the US military to leave.

Neo-conservative luminaries like Dick Cheney, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol and their ilk echo the sentiments of the WSJ. They insist Obama's stress on diplomacy weakens the US global position. They are livid over Obama's call to begin an exit of US troops from Afghanistan in 2011.

Given the failed Christmas Day bombing of a US airliner and other terror threats, the ultra right will shamelessly exploit the legitimate fears of the American people. The Republican right wing will try to ride these fears to victories in the 2010 mid-term elections and the presidency in 2012, or at least weaken the Democratic majorities leading to gridlock.

It must be acknowledged terrorism is real and a real concern for the American people. Having adequate security is an important function of our government and must be organized competently and funded appropriately. But 87% of the military budget is spent on troops and only 8% on homeland security.

Terrorism will not be defeated by a US occupation of Afghanistan. Ultimately it will be addressed through regional and global collective action and economic, educational and social development.

In any case, the current path of guns and butter is unsustainable. Nearly half of the US discretionary budget, $711 billion a year, is spent on the military. The domestic agenda articulated by President Obama and the Democratic Congress is not possible with a continuously expanding military budget.

The needs of US society are glaring and urgent, beginning with the jobs and health care crisis, crumbling infrastructure, education funding and skyrocketing college tuition.

There is a growing movement led by organized labor and environmentalists to transform the economy and create millions of new green jobs. This can't be accomplished without addressing a change in our foreign policy and demilitarization of our domestic economy.

The fight to deepen and extend the policy of diplomacy to include shutting down foreign military bases, eliminating weapons systems, etc. must be coupled with a process of converting military production to civilian use without any job loss. It will be difficult to convince people otherwise.

There are some important openings in the fight to change US foreign policy, including the declaration by Obama for a nuclear free world, his determination to reach a new START agreement with Russia, and the elimination of some weapons systems.

But the struggle over health care reform taught us corporate interests in the health care or military industries bitterly resist any challenge to their profits. Both are deeply embedded in the US economy and nearly every congressional district has some military related employment.

Military contractors donated $23.7 million to federal campaigns in 2008 and over $150 million lobbying Congress. The payback is $200 billion in contracts, not including billions more for maintaining the nuclear weapons industry.

When Defense Secretary Gates announced a 4% increase in military spending and the elimination of some programs, the military industry and their think tanks howled. This would leave the US vulnerable to attack, they screamed. In the end, $1 billion was added to overall military spending.

The Foreign Policy in Focus "Unified Security Budget" recommended $55 billion in cuts to unneeded weapons systems. Of the programs they outlined the Obama administration sought to cut eight including the F-22 combat aircraft. Congress passed six of the eight cuts despite frantic resistance of the military corporate lobby.

The movements are simply not yet strong enough to effect far reaching change. The challenge is to organize majority movements for a sustainable and demilitarized economy. This must include electing people to Congress who are committed to this direction, beginning with the 2010 elections.

The American people need a wide-ranging discussion in communities, union halls, places of worship, and campuses about our national priorities and foreign policy. We need a different understanding of what makes us safe and what doesn't and how our future depends on a green demilitarized economy at home and peaceful cooperation abroad.





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  • W.R.-You are out of touch with reality. Green is in. Red went out with the 20th Century. We have to distinguish between high road capitalism and low road capitalism. The distinction is there. Look for it. We have new models of economics to examine. I agree with Joel. Johnny B. has hit the nail on the head so hard it only took one blow to drive it in. On to the next nail.

    Posted by Robert, 01/11/2010 5:26pm (6 years ago)

  • By helping to kill the single-payer universal healthcare movement you helped to kill the best prospect for the coalition you say you are for. You are a two-faced hypocrite.

    Posted by Barb, 01/11/2010 11:21am (6 years ago)

  • Green Jobs. What about living wages?

    Posted by Dave, 01/11/2010 11:19am (6 years ago)

  • The Wall Street Journal still has a print edition; no? Are we not fighting with our hands tied behind our backs without printed materials?

    Posted by Sherry, 01/11/2010 11:17am (6 years ago)

  • Agreeing with others that this is a solid,useful working-class analysis,now the work in the districts,states and regions starts.
    The cracks in the system that the historic,hard won victory of the Obama Administration affords us cannot be overlooked nor undervalued.
    The geometric types of opportunities that these cracks in the system of monopoly capitalism and imperialism expose are especially visible and palpable when we look at the international arena of struggle with Japan and peace,Russia and peace,Venezuela and peace,and especially China and peace(as alluded to above).
    Again,little democratic Cuba points the way for rational ecology,agriculture and medical care for the whole of humanity-and especially the U.S.
    Careful,intense,rational work with the House and Senate in the area of peace will potentially produce big gains in jobs and job security for millions and millions of multinational workers in the U.S.
    Clean water,air and soil at reduced temperatures,to combat global warming,with science to serve the world's peoples instead of corporate monopoly is the watchword for coming struggles of conversion.

    Posted by E.E.W.Clay, 01/11/2010 10:56am (6 years ago)

  • Excellent article. It's a combination of practical and visionary. Why spend all this money on destruction, when it can be used to for what people need and for the environment? Yes to green jobs.

    Posted by Gregory G., 01/08/2010 1:15am (6 years ago)

  • Pragmatism may be pragmatism, but this doesn't seem to have anything to do with reality. First - "green jobs" is a fine slogan, but what content does it have in the real world? I read and listen to a lot about the environment but so much of it is just opportunism. Capitalists see "green" as the latest buzzword to generate cash, while megatons of carbon are pumped into the atmosphere and bring us closer to a climate catastrophe. I've seen no evidence that "green jobs" will make the massive switch to sustainable carbon levels that we need, desperately, to hit soon. (For those interested in a less buzzword happy approach, Monthly Review has a great article on this by John Bellamy Foster. Capitalism can't get us out of this jam.)

    Second - demilitarization is an admirable goal but the Democrats aren't going to do a lick of this work. Obama's expanding the Afghanistan war, remember? And they ADDED $1billion to the largest military budget in human history. So how can the 2010 elections have ANYTHING to do with demilitarizing the economy?

    Posted by W.R., 01/07/2010 5:16pm (6 years ago)

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