Biggest U.S. city will debate cost of war vs. human needs

NEW YORK- The biggest U.S. city may call for a cut in the Pentagon budget to fund domestic needs, if City Council member Letitia James has her way.

James announced she will introduce a council resolution this month asking the state’s congressional delegation to seek cuts in the proposed military budget to provide funding to state and local governments to deal with massive budget deficits throughout the country.

New York City is presently facing a $4.9 billion deficit. To resolve the deficit, the mayor has proposed draconian cuts to essential city services and jobs. Meanwhile, the nation’s military budget is at a record high.

The resolution calls for transferring military spending to support job creation, affordable housing, anti-hunger programs, environmental protection, education and other essential human needs.

Supporters include community groups and New York’s Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand, D, who are seeking an additional $4 billion annually as part of the reauthorization of federal child nutrition programs, such as WIC and school meals. Presently, the Senate Agriculture Committee is proposing only a $450 million increase.

Since the City Council has no real sway over foreign policy, the resolution will be mainly symbolic. But James believes the resolution will pass with broad support, and encourage members of the community to take action. She is working with the council’s newly formed progressive caucus and other members. Beyond that, she said, it is up to the people of New York City to reach their congressional representatives to get action from Washington.

Anti-hunger and peace groups joined James at a City Hall press conference and rally on April 15, Tax dDy, calling for military cuts to fund the budget deficits and human needs.

James was introduced by Mark Dunlea of the Hunger Action Network of New York State. She focusing her remarks on the needs of children, the elderly and the unemployed. She pointed out that though the official unemployment rate in the city is 10.2 percent, the real figure is three times that number.

Christy Robb of Hour Children, a Long Island City-based family service organization, spoke of the growing number of people going hungry and the lacking of resources to meet their needs. “There has been no talk about extra federal dollars for food this year and now we have Mayor Bloomberg talking about cutting the emergency food aid program and Governor Paterson talking about cutting the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program,” she said.

Matt Weinstein of Brooklyn for Peace noted that the mayor of Binghamton, N.Y., Matthew T. Ryan, has put up at his City Hall a device displaying a running tally of the cost of current wars and occupations, highlighting the enormous burden the military budget is putting on Binghamton and other cities around the country. Mayor Bloomberg, Weinstein said, only concerns himself with keeping Wall Street in the money.

Video of the City Hall press conference (courtesy Matthew Weinstein):

Photo: New York City Council member Letitia James speaks at the City Hall press conference, April 15. (Matthew Weinstein)


Gabe Falsetta
Gabe Falsetta

Long-time social justice activist Gabe Falsetta writes from New York City.