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PSN on March 11, 2010 - 10:56am
Reducing Military Spending to Spur Economic Growth at Home
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Reducing Military Spending to Spur Economic Growth at Home
The Senate struggled to approve a $15 billion jobs bill and has yet to enact additional fiscal relief for the states, but lawmakers continue to approve trillions of dollars for wars and defense appropriations. In fact, ignoring the almost $1 trillion spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, military spending has grown 41 percent since 1998. If progressive leaders intend to reduce long-term deficits and ensure a robust economic recovery, cutting inefficient and costly areas of the defense budget should be a top priority.
For this reason, state legislators from across the country have signed on to the Women Legislators' Lobby's (WiLL) letter encouraging the federal government to trim the unnecessary spending in the Pentagon budget and redirect that money to areas in the economy that generate more jobs and address significant issues, such as climate change, education, and infrastructure maintenance.
In the State of the Union, President Obama proposed to freeze all non-security discretionary spending for three years, creating $250 billion in savings, yet exempted the defense budget from scrutiny. However, as Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan indicates, "[i]f President Obama is serious about controlling spending, he can’t exempt the Pentagon... Because the budgets of [Defense] agencies, particularly that of the Pentagon, are responsible for a large and increasing share of the discretionary portion of the federal budget, the president’s spending freeze will have a marginal effect."
US Military Spending: Even as the US is failing to invest in the basic infrastructure needed for global economic competitiveness, the nation's military budget dwarfs the amount other countries allocate for defense and accounts for almost half of all military spending in the world.
Additionally, 83 percent of US national security spending is specifically allocated to the military, while 11 percent is directed toward homeland security, and 6 percent to international affairs. As a result, US security spending is overwhelmingly skewed towards weaponry rather than basic protection and diplomatic efforts. As Women's Action for New Directions (WAND) notes, portions of the military's budget go to "weapons systems that were intended to fight the military might of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. They are now obsolete, unnecessary, and eating up federal dollars that could be better spent elsewhere." WAND and the Center for American Progress identify several defense spending cuts that would not threaten US efforts overseas or security within the nation's borders.
Jobs and Economic Recovery: According to a report by economists at the University of Massachusetts, reducing spending on obsolete weaponry and inefficient defense spending and shifting funding towards other critical sectors will create jobs and foster economic recovery. For example, investing in mass transit creates twice as many jobs as spending on the military. Specifically, investing $1 billion in the military only creates 8,500 jobs, while the same investment in:
Other countries have recognized that these investments translate into economic growth. For instance, China's $585 economic stimulus program is predominantly focused on infrastructure spending on highways, railroads, and power grids.
Speaking in Florida in January, President Obama acknowledged that Asian and European countries are vastly ahead the United States in developing high-speed rail: “Other countries aren’t waiting. They want those jobs. China wants those jobs. Germany wants those jobs. They are going after them hard, making the investments required.”
Take Action: Sign on to WiLL's letter calling on the President to cut non-essential spending in the Pentagon budget and redirect that money to areas in the economy that generate more, and better, jobs for long-term security by clicking here, calling (202) 544-5055, ext. 2602, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Labor Peace Law in New York Part of Trend of Promoting Labor Rights on Government Projects
On March 1st, a new law in New York goes into effect, strengthening the freedom of employees to form labor unions at hotels or convention centers run or funded by state authorities, a dramatic victory for hotel workers in the state. The law has specific language requiring that hotels or convention centers where state public authorities have a substantial proprietary interest include a "labor peace agreement" with hotel unions in the state in exchange for the unions agreeing not to strike for five years. The law follows a similar executive order by the Governor approved last year.
Such "labor peace agreements" laws, also often called Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), have become increasingly common in recent years, sometimes negotiated by state and local governments on a project-by-project basis but also required for particular categories of projects. A major expansion of the Los Angeles International Airport includes a PLA that requires neutrality by employers and recognition of unions when a majority of workers sign cards asking for recognition. Hartford and the District of Columbia, for example, also have general labor peace ordinances.
At the federal level, President Obama's Executive Order 13502: Use of Project Labor Agreements for Federal Construction Projects encourages -- although does not require -- federal agencies to use PLAs on federal construction projects in excess of $25 million.
The advantages of such labor peace agreements are clear. As this report by the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations notes, it makes costs predictable and prevents delays and disruptions, while preventing the "'under the table' cash payments, ignoring wage, hour and tax laws, and intentional misclassification of workers as independent contractors" that has become too common industry practices.
Eye on the Right: Adding Anti-Gay Provision to Wasteful Film Tax Credits in Florida
PSN has noted in previous Dispatches, these credits are costly, favor out-of-state workers, offer minimal to no returns, do not create permanent jobs, and place an excessive burden on taxpayers in a time of economic uncertainty. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue recently determined that in twelve states that administer a film tax credit, the return is extremely meager-- finding that states were only getting back "$.0.07 to $.0.28 per dollar of tax credit granted."
Adding a discriminatory twist on a fiscally inefficient program, Florida conservatives are advancing HB697, a $75 million film tax credit bill, that contains a clause prohibiting movies that display "nontraditional family values" from receiving state dollars. Lawmakers have declined to specify what they actually consider "traditional" or "nontraditional" family values. Although the bill's sponsor, Rep. Stephen Precourt, claimed that he did not intend to target the gay community, when asked if films with gay characters should receive the credit, he responded, "[t]hat would not be the kind of thing I'd say that we want to invest public dollars in."
Using wasteful tax credits to advance right-wing social values is just another indication of the hollowness of conservative claims of "fiscal responsibility." Even as Florida is facing a $147 million mid-year budget gap and a projected $4.7 billion FY2011 deficit, right-wing lawmakers have somehow found revenue to fund an ineffective program that intentionally discriminates against the gay community.
Building for Long-Term Economic Recovery
Broadband Adoption in Low-Income Communities - The Federal Communications Commission released findings prepared by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) that highlights the barriers to home broadband adoption in low-income and other marginalized communities. Cost is an important factor but skills training and language are also significant barriers for many households participating in the digital world. Libraries and other community organizations are increasingly under pressure to meet community demand for help in getting access.
Addressing State Fiscal Crises
Protecting Wage Standards
A Matter of Degrees: Preparing Teachers for the Pre-K Classroom - Improving teacher quality is key to making investments in early education most effective, according to this Pre-K Now report. The report concludes that educators with at least a bachelor’s degree coupled with specialized training in early childhood are best able to foster development of the cognitive, social and emotional skills children need to be ready for kindergarten. The report also also highlights state models for increasing teacher quality.
2008 Ballot Measure Overview - This report by the Institute on Money in State Politics shows that special interests and businesses, not individuals, dominated the funding of 2008 ballot measures. Special interests and businesses contributed 69 percent ($564.4 million) of the total raised to oppose or promote 274 measures that year. Gambling-related measures received the most contributions, at $273 million, followed by $120 million given around measures that addressed same-sex marriage.
The Gender Wage Gap: 2009 - The Institute for Women's Policy Research tracks the disparity in median earnings of men and women since 1955 in this report. They find that the gap narrowed slightly in 2009, but "the ratio of women’s to men’s median weekly earnings was 80.2" this past year.
How Positive Immigration Policy Strengthens Economies
The 2010 Census: The Stakes of an Accurate Count - As the 2010 census prepares to survey homes nationwide in the next month, immigrant and Latino communities, concerns persist on how to reach the nation's undocumented and low-income residents, groups that are historically undercounted.
Center for American Progress - Paying for the Troop Escalation in Afghanistan
Text of Labor Peace Portion of 2009 New York Public Authorities Law
Good Jobs First - More States Yell "Cut" on Film Tax Credits
3 Steps Forward
2 Steps Back
The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:
Nathan Newman, Executive Director
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