As we end the longest period of war in our history, we should be entering a period of postwar downsizing - but what about the communities dependent on the massive post-9/11 military budget?
End wars. Shrink the Pentagon budget. Reinvest the savings in neglected domestic priorities. It’s a logical progression. Right?
Yes, though we’d be fools to expect too much logic out of our current federal legislature. As we end the longest period of war in our history, we should be entering a period of postwar downsizing—the first since the end of the Cold War. And we are, though it’s been driven as much by budget squeezing generally as by a sense of postwar possibility.
And it’s a shallower defense downsizing than the last one. And the December 2013 budget deal will make it even shallower.
But communities that have been living off post-9/11 military budget surges are beginning to feel the effects of this (so far) modest shrinkage. This is the moment to deepen the defense downsizing, and make it endure. An essential piece of this task is to focus on helping communities and workers build alternatives to dependency on building weapon systems we don’t need.
Here is IPS’ comprehensive strategy for building this alternative economic foundation, linking action at the federal, state and local levels.
And here are two of the most exciting developments pushing this forward. They look like the sturdy supports of a movement to me.
State commissions planning for diversificationConnecticut—one of the most defense-dependent states in the nation—is providing one new model for action. In May of this year, peace, environmental and faith groups joined with labor unions to push the legislature to pass “An Act Concerning Connecticut’s Future.” This vague-sounding law contains a visionary mandate: convene a broad-based Commission to come up with a plan to diversify Connecticut’s overly defense-dependent economy. This commission—made up of state economic development directors, legislators, representatives of business groups, the state AFL-CIO, and representatives of peace and environmental organizations—is beginning to meet and will reveal its plan by the end of next year.
Other states are following suit. Maryland will vote on a similar bill in its next legislative session. Wisconsin has one in the works. Activists are pushing the process in Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota. It’s a growing movement that can become a model for the kind of postwar planning that needs to happen on the federal level.
New federal supports for local transition planningSince the 1980’s the Defense Department has housed a small office dedicated to helping communities plan an economic transition following a base closing or defense contract cancellation. As the Pentagon budget soared during the post-9-11 years, this office focused almost exclusively on the base closings-half of its mission. Now it is refocusing on helping communities adjust to defense contract losses with planning grants and technical assistance. This is explained here.
The Obama administration is beginning to expand this Office of Economic Adjustment, as it’s called, and turn it into a gateway for assistance from other federal agencies, including programs in the Departments of Commerce, Energy and Transportation, for communities in transition.
Local activists can work with their local public officials to put together broad-based community coalitions and use these funds to build models of peace economy transition. The more we do, the more lessons we learn about the best practices for doing it, and the stronger this foundation for a demilitarized economy becomes.
New Economy Transitions From the Bottom UpIn the face of federal legislative dysfunction, more and more progressive initiatives are coming from the state and local levels. The effort to build a peace economy, following the longest period of war in our history, is taking its rightful place in this constellation of progress from the bottom up.
Link to original article from Institute for Policy Studies
Miriam Pemberton is a research fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. She co-chairs the Task Force on a Unified Security Budget with Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress.
Once again, Koch brothers cash will face off against a people-powered campaign in Wisconsin this November. The race is for a House seat in the first Congressional District, a seat now held by Paul Ryan. His challenger – the first serious challenge he's faced in 14 years in Congress – is Rob Zerban, a restaurateur and County Commissioner.
Everywhere I go during my campaign — parades, farmers markets, even the local deli — I keep hearing the same thing from Wisconsin voters. “We need real representation,” they tell me, “representation that’s focused on the people and what we need.”
"The message is clear: Paul Ryan must be held accountable for his 14 years of failed decisions"
"He had a minor in economics," Rob Zerban says of his opponent. "What experience does he have to say that he's the great budget oracle?" "The people of the First District can see where that budget impacts their lives. Their bridges start to crumble. We've got 16 bridges on federal highways alone in the district that have been declared structurally deficientm and that doesn't include county and local municipal bridges.
Typically during an election cycle, it often comes down to voting for the lesser of two evils. You choose the one who supports the issues most meaningful to you – or at least doesn’t outright defy them. It can be difficult to encounter a candidate who personifies the conviction and integrity you would imagine only in a perfect political world.
Today, Rob Zerban, Democratic Congressional challenger to Congressman Paul Ryan, released the following statement in response to the introduction of Paul Ryan’s FY2013 “Path to Poverty” budget.
“In yet another misguided handout to Wall Street at the expense of Main Street, Congressman Paul Ryan today introduced his latest budget plan, designed to place the blame for his 14 years of poor decisions squarely on the backs of our hardworking families.
When I began this campaign, I made a commitment to serve as a voice of the people- not of corporations.
I have been putting that into action. In the last few weeks, I have been working overtime to kickoff my campaign with rallies across the district.
The American Civil Liberties Union, Free Press and the Save the Internet campaign have made it clear that the Stop Online Piracy Act poses a genuine threat to human rights advocacy and whistleblowing on the Web.