Move money to human, environmental needs
By Nancy Price
On Jan. 18, we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s Jan. 15 birthday. With the long weekend, you could listen to more celebratory radio, T.V. and webinar programs.
Usually, King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial is the highlight, often with community readings that this year may have been outdoor for safely.
Now, in the midst of convergent social, economic and environmental crises, programs often talked about King’s most revolutionary “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” speech, given on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York, when he moved from civil rights to a critique of capitalism and an economic system that left tens of millions struggling in poverty.
He spoke of the “triplets of evil” — racism, materialism and militarism — and called for a “revolution of values” a shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society.” He called for a “worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concerns beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation.” He emphasized that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
King began organizing the Poor People’s March on Washington for May 12- June 24, 1968, but he never made it to Washington — he was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, perhaps by those fearing he might abandon his commitment to nonviolence in seeking racial justice.
Fifty-four years later and after decades of endless wars, the recently founded Poor People’s Campaign has taken up King’s mission. This campaign seeks to change “the national conversation” with a call for “moral revival to build a people-centered, transformative movement for systemic change with a focus on four interconnected themes — systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation.”
Its Jubilee Platform of 14 Policy Priorities declares, “If America does not address what’s happening with visionary social and economic policy, the health and well-begin of the nation is at stake …What we need is long-term economic policy that establishes justice, promotes the general welfare, rejects decades of austerity and builds strong social programs that lifts society from below.”
Learn more about the Poor People’s Campaign at https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/, their Moral Agenda Based on Fundamental Rights with extensive documentation at https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/our-demands/ and theirPolicy Priorities at https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/14-Policy-Priorities-v3.pdf.
Some of their priority proposals will require a large commitment of funds: comprehensive, free and just COVID-19 relief; quality health care and housing for all; a federal jobs program to build up investments, infrastructure, public institutions, climate resilience, energy efficiency, socially beneficial industries and jobs in poor and low-income communities; and quality public education.
The question is how will these programs be funded? Over the last couple of years, resistance to excessive military budgets, accounting for more than 50% of every tax dollar, has been building. Understandably, because federal funding to states has been drastically cut, in 2017, the annual meeting of U.S. mayors passed the “Opposition to Military Spending” resolution that “urged the United Stated Congress to move our tax dollars in the opposite direction proposed by the president, from militarism to human and environmental needs.”
In fact, the Poor People’s Campaign boldly proposed a “Moral Budget” with a 50% cut in the 2021 military budget that was about $700 billion and with proposed line-item cuts allocated to specific needs.
After the 2017 Mayors Resolution, the national Move the Money to Human Needs campaign (https://moneyforhumanneeds.org/ ) was organized. In 2019 and 2020, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, and 83% of voters in New Haven, Conn., passed resolutions in line with the U.S. mayors’ call for redirecting military dollars to human and environmental needs. Now diverse coalitions in New York, Pittsburgh and other cities have organized campaigns.
As Sarah Pattison wrote for the Davis Committee Against Nuclear Weapons on Jan. 22, nuclear weapons are now illegal as 51 nations of the 122 who signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons have ratified it so that it now enters into force.
Each of these 51 Nations is now prohibited from “a range of activities including to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” The 2021 military budget includes $28.9 billion for modernization of nuclear weapons, plus many tens of billions for delivery systems and other associated line items.
It’s time for a revolution of values. Key to reducing our military budget is building the grassroots movement to have the United States sign and ratify this Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, so please call your representatives.
At the Move the Money to Human Needs website, please sign the petition and also send a letter to U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee and Mark Pocan to activate the new House Defense Spending Reduction Caucus.
— Nancy Price, a Davis resident, is a member of the Move the Money Campaign Coordinating Committee. In the early 1980s, she was co-chair of the Yolo County Nuclear Freeze Campaign. She is also a member of DavisCAN (Davis Committee Against Nuclear Weapons).