There is wide political agreement that we need to do more to support our veterans and their families. A recent spectacular demonstration was the 326-90 vote in the House and 95-3 vote in the Senate to repeal the military pension cuts to veterans and active service members that were in the Ryan-Murray budget deal. A key question in the current federal budget environment is how we are going to pay for increased veterans' benefits, given broad Republican resistance to raising revenue or increasing the deficit.
Just over a week ago, the Senate fell one vote short of overcoming a Republican filibuster to pass a three-month extension of assistance for the long-term unemployed.
We have just a week left to help Burlington, Vermont kill the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the biggest taxpayer ripoff in human history. On Monday, October 7, the Burlington City Council will vote on a binding resolution that would block F-35 warplanes from being based at Burlington International Airport, which is owned by the city.
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to cut domestic spending in order to increase military spending. Regardless of whatever else may be true - that is, regardless of whether you think more military spending is otherwise a good idea, or how you feel about the public services that would be axed by greater domestic cuts - their plans to cut domestic spending in order to increase military spending would cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs.
How many jobs? A plausible estimate is that their plans to cut domestic spending in order to increase military spending would cost at least 530,000 jobs.
What does 530,000 jobs mean in the context of the U.S. economy? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently about 12.8 million unemployed out of a labor force of about 155 million, for a measured unemployment rate of 8.3%. If an additional 500,000 people were employed today, there would be 12.3 million unemployed and the unemployment rate would be 8%.
By comparison, in September 2011, economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics estimated that if two stimulus measures were allowed to expire the end of 2011 - the 2% employee payroll tax holiday and the emergency unemployment insurance program - that would cost 750,000 jobs in 2012. As you may recall, there was a huge fight about whether those two stimulus measures should be allowed to expire. The job loss from replacing military cuts with domestic cuts is roughly of the same order of magnitude. If it was worth fighting about saving those 750,000 jobs by extending the stimulus, then it's worth fighting about saving 530,000 jobs by not replacing military cuts with domestic cuts.
This week, a series of showdowns is expected in the House over the Pentagon budget, when House Members vote on amendments to the Defense Appropriations Bill to cut the overall level of military spending, end or limit the war in Afghanistan, and draw down troops permanently stationed in Europe.
What happens in these votes will have a big influence on the expected negotiations over replacing the impending "sequester" automatic cuts of the Budget Control Act with a package of revenue increases and spending cuts. If you want cuts in military spending to be on the table, now is the time to speak up.
Until now, the bigfoot military contractors and their most stalwart allies in Congress have fought with great success to keep real cuts in military spending away from the table. What has mostly happened until now is that most of the previously projected increases in spending have been cut, so that under the President's plan military spending would rise roughly with inflation. It's an important start, certainly, to stop the previously projected increase, but it's not a real cut from past spending levels. If the automatic cuts were to go through, that would cause a real cut in military spending, although military spending would still be above what it was during the Cold War. But the conventional wisdom is that the automatic cuts won't happen; at the end of the day, they will be replaced by a package of revenue increases and spending cuts.
The question is what is going to be in that package.
Until now, the GOP leadership position has been that cuts in military spending are off the table.
On October 7, 2011, the United States will have been at war for ten years.
Let's mark the occasion by making a national clamor for peace so loud that Congress, the President, and big media will have to pay attention.
October 7 happens to fall on a Friday this year. If you get to choose, Friday is not necessarily the most strategic day to make a national clamor for peace, because 1) Congress will likely not be in session 2) Friday is, in general, a crummy day to try to get media attention and 3) even if these two things weren't true or relevant, Friday is not a great day to try to hold public attention. People's thoughts are turning to the weekend, and then the weekend erases the chalkboard.
Moreover, the press has to cover the anniversary of the war, but these stories are going to be largely written and produced before Friday. The default media narrative will be: America has lost interest in the wars, because of the economy and unemployment, because "the wars are already winding down," or some other story that journalists or editors will make up. We have to beat this default media narrative. To beat it, we need to get in front of it.
So let's mark the occasion on Thursday, October 6. Let's have a national, "ecumenical" day of action for peace: to end the wars and cut the military budget.