As more Americans sour on our 10-year-old national nation-building experiment in Afghanistan, there's a growing community of policy mandarins, activists and elites uniting to expose the myriad of ways war spending and military contracting have plunged our nation into a jobs crisis.
The existing counter insurgency operation in Afghanistan is hurting the American economy, and there is data to prove it.
Job Creation Per $1 Billion Spent:
-Tax Cuts for Personal Consumption: 15,100
-Clean Energy: 16,800
-Health Care: 17,200
If we really want a society where people who want to work can enjoy a moderate standard of living, says Robert Pollin, co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, "the best thing to do is to start cutting the military."
Congressional allies for big war contractors at Lockheed Martin and Boing justify the bloated, corruption-filled war budget on the backs of job creation and security. But, unlike the war industry, people whose livelihoods are not dependent on weapons of mass destruction agree that military spending is the worst performing job creation program. Like Upton Sinclair says, "It is difficult to get a man understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
The data proves education and infrastructure spending create 50 percent more jobs than building tanks and jets, which by the way, will not see one iota of combat.
Afghanistan hawks clamor that victory can be bought abroad, and even the voices who have most adamantly insisted on a balanced budget amendment have still supporting pouring taxpayer money into the quagmire. Afghanistan has usurped many good-paying jobs at home.
But why is it the national blue ribbon panels and commissions tasked with budget reduction have identified the corruption-filled military budget as a meaningful target for cuts? There's widespread political support from the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission, budget hawk Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and the Center for American Progress. And it's good policy: we can save almost $1 trillion by ending our foreign entanglements, which would free job creating programs from undue pressure.
Instead of solutions to a 26 percent unemployment rate for military families, we get misplaced and misinformed priorities in Washington DC. That's why we're working to unite popular support behind cutting taxpayer subsidies to military contractors.
Much of the justification for military spending spewing from the establishment is going unchallenged. And it's not encouraging when the spin echoes Iraq War-era empty promises.
One of the Iraq War's biggest apologists is advocating for the same blank check strategy for Afghanistan. Michael O'Hanlon from the ostensibly data-driven Brookings Institution argues our Afghanistan effort has made fragile and reversible gains, which is almost verbatim what we heard him say about Iraq in 2003 and last month.
O'Hanlon and his ilk are free to favor nation building abroad, but neither cheerleading nor escalating our commitments abroad will help the American jobs crisis. Military spending is the worst way, relative to more progressive projects, to foster sustainable job creation.
There's momentum on our side that's making job creation the No. 1 priority in Congress. This month, the Senate passed an amendment that would accelerate the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and save billions in the process. It's a strong first step, and hurdles remain, but it's a sign that we need to do our part to give Congress and the White House support to trim the war budget and focus on sustainable job creation.
Bellwether legislators are working to foster consensus around building roads and schools in the U.S. instead of in Afghanistan, and they need our support. Without our help, you'll see elites argue the politics of naming warships after labor leader Cesar Chavez.
Now is the time to pressure Washington DC and make job creation the No. 1 priority in 2012.
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