March 2002

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Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.

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Wrapped in the Flag: The Bush Budget

Frida Berrigan is a Senior Research Associate with the World Policy Institute's Arms Trade Resource Center.

Bush's new budget is wrapped in the American flag, literally. The four-volume tome is printed on heavy glossy paper and covered with a picture of the American flag.

President Bush is requesting a $48 billion increase in Pentagon spending. If he has his way, total budget authority for military spending for 2003--including military functions of the Coast Guard and the Department of Energy--will reach $396 billion, an $87 billion increase from when he took office in January 2001.

Clad in a leather bomber jacket, Bush addressed Air Force personnel at Elgin Air Force base in Florida to announce the huge increase, the largest since the Reagan administration. "Our men and women deserve the best weapons, the best equipment and the best training," he said to resounding applause. It had better be the best because the proposed increase alone is larger than the entire military budget of every other country in the world except Russia, which spends about $56 billion a year.

Bush made the argument that the United States needs new military spending to address the new threats and a new security environment, saying, "it is very clear that the defense budget is cheap when one compares it to putting our security at risk, our lives at risk, our country at risk, our freedoms at risk." But the President's rhetoric ignores the fact that this new military spending spree has little to do with fighting the war on terrorism.

woman with sign- house the homeless, evict the weapons
"House the Homeless, Evict the Weapons" © Ellen Shub
More than one-third of the $68 billion in weapons procurement funding in the Pentagon's latest budget proposal is set aside to pay for big ticket Cold War systems ranging from three new fighter plane programs, to costly destroyers and attack submarines, to the 70-ton Crusader artillery system. None of these systems are necessary to carry out the President's so-called war on terrorism.

The combination of large tax cuts, the largest military spending increase in twenty years, and a doubling of the budget for homeland defense will force major cutbacks domestic programs. The White House's budget proposes cuts at the Departments of Justice and Labor and appropriates no new money for Commerce, Agriculture, or the Interior. The budgets for education, the environment, and space exploration are all essentially cut, as proposed increases do not reach the rate of inflation.

But the Pentagon wants even more money. The ink was barely dry on the White House's budget proposal when the Pentagon began preparing its case that $48 billion is not enough money. General Richard Myers, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed Congress the next day to call for spending of more than $100 billion a year "for several years." The Pentagon budget proposal is great news for Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and United Defense, but it's a colossal waste of taxpayer money at a time when our national leadership should be setting clear priorities.

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