Why Poverty is a Peace Issue and Why We Should Embrace it as one Now.
We all know this… Eisenhower said it. “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
We all believe it. We have all been advocating this for as long as any of us can remember. But now things are different. The current economic crisis which persists for way too many in this country (And around the planet) brings it all home as we all knew it would be brought home sooner or later.
We have all done our work advocating redirecting military spending to social needs for a very long time. We watched as we were sometimes turned down by groups working on other social issues when we WANTED to work together because to be seen with us risked, for these organizations, backlashes from a public addicted to military security that threatened their work. So we waited.
With the global economic decline and, more directly, with the current decline of the U.S. empire, the time is ripe for coming together and building real alliances… Nothing anyone reading this does not already know. But we are called to from history to take a stronger stand.
Dr. Martin Luther King, as usual, was ahead of the curve on this. On April 15, 1967, he spoke at an anti-war rally in NYC saying “…And I believe everyone has a duty to be in both the civil-rights and peace movements. But for those who presently choose but one, I would hope they will finally come to see the moral roots common to both.
The following year He began organizing the “Poor People’s March” because he felt that Congress had shown “hostility to the poor” by spending “military funds with alacrity and generosity”. He contrasted this with the situation faced by poor Americans, claiming that Congress had merely provided “poverty funds with miserliness”. His vision was for change that was more revolutionary than mere reform: he cited systematic flaws of “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism”, and argued that “reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced”.
Lesser known was his call for compensation. King stated that black Americans, as well as other disadvantaged Americans, should be compensated for historical wrongs.
King said that he did not seek a full restitution of wages lost to slavery, which he believed impossible, but proposed a government compensatory program of $50 billion over ten years to all disadvantaged groups.
He posited that “the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils”. He presented this idea as an application of the common law regarding settlement of unpaid labor, but clarified that he felt that the money should not be spent exclusively on blacks. He stated, “It should benefit the disadvantaged of all races”.
I mention all of this to underline the notion that “Welfare” which carries an unfair stigma as a “handout” should really be seen as compensation for work done that benefits all of society. Parents and care givers play a vital social role in raising healthy, well adjusted children, Public investment in this sector is for the greater good and, as we all know, is a much better investment in the nation’s real security than any number of over blown over funded unneeded weapons systems. The legislation that I am proposing we endorse and the campaign that I propose we participate in, to the degree possible, The RISE out of Poverty Act and its companion piece the WORK Act, come in at a price tag of around $2.5 Billion. (Though the final cost is likely to be much higher, and we have asked National Priorities Project to help us determine both more accurate costs and appropriate trade-offs from the military side of the budget. But for now we will be using this lower figure.) Compare this to the F-35 which comes in at $12.6 Billion, Terminating the V-22 Osprey, a system with little real need, would save $2 billion. Another $2.9 Billion for operations in Iraq. What can I possibly write to put this in perspective?
It is therefore that I propose that peace and justice organizations endorse the following two pieces of legislation realizing the dream of King and positioning ourselves for the future while developing new allies among social needs organizations who increasingly are calling for cuts in military spending now that real reductions on are the table. (See either of the web sites below)
The time has come for us to get on board and by adding our name to this effort, and mobilizing our networks and members and activists, each according to our abilities, clearly demonstrating that we are ready to work alongside groups that are now taking up our call to reorder national spending priorities.
Specifically we should:
- Sign the endorsement form. (Also on one of the web sites.)
- Put a link for the endorsement form for our groups and allies up on our web sites and display prominently.
- Do at least one e-mail “blast” to our activists when ACTION ALERTS are generated for this upcoming legislation.
- Reach out to congressional allies to seek co-sponsors. Help us find a new sponsor for the WORK Act
- Put up educational materials on RISE and WORK on web sites.
- Distribute petitions and return to www.globalwomenstrike.net or www.everymothernetwork.net