Posted by: minnow | March 16, 2019

Creating a Climate for Change

Yesterday some Missoula youth joined thousands across the nation and hundreds of thousands around the world to make a statement about how we adults have dropped the ball on climate change. Today in my FB feed I saw pictures of wide spread flooding in Nebraska. Both barely made a blip in the news cycle. Climate Change is real and deniers are burying their heads in the sand. But, greedy politicians aren’t going to care until it impacts their bottom line. By then it will be too late for the rest of us. You, the voting public, have two choices. Call me, and voices like mine, chicken littles and thereby continue to ignore the mounting evidence that climate change is a growing problem, or look for and elect representatives who will make the difficult decision to ACT.

Another presidential election is right around the corner. Several candidates, like Washington state’s governor Jay Inslee and South Bend’s mayor Pete Buttigieg for example, want the problems surrounding climate change be included in, if not central to our political debate. But if we really want the folks in Washington DC to wrestle with this issue we need more than a new president. We need senators and representatives willing to: A.  join the fight for change, and B. ignore the money the rich and powerful want to put in their pockets.

I for one believe the time has come for radical change. AOC’s and Ed Markey’s Green New Deal is not some far fetched plan that costs millions without addressing the economic burden so often cast on the poor and middle class. It not only calls for  “meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources” but it also includes job creation and a reworking of our infrastructure. a few of the ideas it promotes are to expand high speed rail transportation, increase electric cars production, and build charging stations across the country. Each of these proposals would cost money it’s true but they also create jobs.

The proposed military budget for 2020 is $989 billion dollars. It is the second largest item in the federal budget, following social security. [But remember, social security is collected as a separate tax and so far has paid for itself. Yes, we keep hearing about “the need to cut social security” from republicans but the issue is much more complex than the GOP is willing to admit. It involves the run away deficit, increased spending (primarily for the military), and decreased tax revenue (thanks in part to the recent tax cuts for the wealthy). Some “solutions” might include cuts to social security benefits but whether or not those are the best solutions for most Americans is debatable, and a topic for another day.]  $989 billion dollars is more than the next nine countries spend on their militaries and most of those countries are our allies.

While the government can’t seem to say no to increased military spending, it often refuses to find funding to address our social problems. Much of the military budget is explained away rather casually. We are the “protectors” of the free world with 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and it takes a lot of money to maintain our military readiness. But while the public is given this simple answer the devil is found in the details. Maintaining a strategy of hegemony is not cheap and may not be wise.

Still, forcing the government to take a serious look at our military spending will be like pulling teeth–not easy and probably painful. A good place to start however, is with waste and poor accountability. This 2017 report outlines how millions of dollars have been wasted. But, an even bigger problem seems to be accountability. The military doesn’t always know where its money goes. Educating the public about these realities is a first important step. The public needs to understands that the goal of those targeting the military budget is not to weaken the military but rather to make it more responsible.

Most Americans agree that the number one responsibility of the federal government is public safety which is why cutting the military budget, or even holding it steady, is emotionally so difficult. Yet, at some point we have to ask ourself–what are we protecting with such a mammoth military if not our way of life? And then, how can we strike a balance between security and the life and values we are trying to keep secure?

Some suggest the US should cap its military spending at 2% of the GDP. Currently it is at about 3.5%. Ironically, though 45 is fond of castigating European leaders for their lack of spending, calling on them to increase their military budges to meet US levels, lowering our spending to the 2% of GDP level would bring the US in line with most of our allies (and thus controlling what we can actually control to achieve the more equitable balance 45 demands). The additional money available under such a proposal (approximately $3 trillion over 10 years) could make a dramatic difference toward addressing the non-military issues facing our country, such as climate change.

Harnessing military spending to the GDP (except in the case of imminent threats to our national security) would set a US priority for growth. Using that money to stimulate the economy in the ways outlined by the Green New Deal sets our focus on a thriving (rather than merely surviving) future. America’s greatness tomorrow will be determined by how willing we are today to create a climate for change, sacrifice the more immediate gratification and comforts of doing things the way we always have, and envisioning and implementing a sustainable, yet vibrant, future.

 

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Responses

  1. […] I care about the issues. Campaign financing, systemic racism, healthcare, climate change, the national debt, public education, a broken immigration system, and our crumbling infrastructure are my top eight. I will find out what the various candidates have to say on those topics, and will blog about what I learn. I  wrote my first piece already. You can find it here. […]


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