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Peace Activists Urge NYC City Council to Weigh in on Runaway Pentagon Spending

While New Yorkers endure diminished public services, $29.3 billion per year in their tax dollars go directly into support for the military.

Eleanor J. Bader Apr 14

Five years back, in fiscal 2018 — the year Move the Money (MtM) was formed to protest excessive spending on war — the annual budget of the U.S. military was $682 billion.  

Fast forward to March 9, 2023, the day the Biden-Harris administration submitted its fiscal-year 2024 budget request to Congress. The ask for national defense totaled $842 billion, $26 billion more than requested in 2023 and $100 billion more than requested in 2022.

According to the president, the sum is necessary to enable the Department of Defense to advance security “by purposefully aligning … our warfighters, allies, and partners for success.” 

Military allocations have weakened the body politic by draining needed resources from schools, libraries, hospitals, public housing and environmental stewardship.

Move the Money and more than 60 New York City-based community groups including AFSCME Local 1549, Black Vets for Social Justice, 1199 SEIU; Domestic Workers United; the NY State Nurses Association; People’s Climate Movement; Rise and Resist, the Sierra Club, UPROSE, Veterans for Peace Chapter 34 and the War Resisters League vehemently disagree with the president’s assessment. Instead, they are standing in support of City Council Resolution 423 introduced by Council member Carlina Rivera in December. The Resolution calls on Congress and the president to “move significant funds away from the military budget in order to fund social services.”  

For MtM members, championing the resolution is a no-brainer because it is obvious that military allocations have not made us safer, but have weakened the body politic by draining needed resources from schools, libraries, hospitals, public housing and environmental stewardship. In addition, military spending has left our roads, bridges, tunnels and highways in sorry shape.  

Adding to the insult, New Yorkers pay a hefty price for the neglect: Approximately $29.3 billion City tax dollars go directly into support for the military.

According to MtM activist Tara Currie, this underscores the importance of Resolution 423. 

The bill has been assigned to the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations chaired by Brooklyn Council member Chi Osse. The Committee is expected to hold a still-unscheduled public hearing on the bill sometime this summer.

This gives Move the Money ample time to organize support for the measure. MtM intends to table at street fairs, festivals and community events throughout the coming months to build momentum and get as many lawmakers as possible to support a shift away from militarism. Already 20 Council members and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams have indicated their support for the bill.  

“People can learn to make solar panels instead of warships or fighter planes.”   

“If New York City passes Resolution 423, it will inspire other cities to do something similar,” Currie told The Indypendent. “The Defense Department was clever in making sure that there is either a base or a military contractor in just about every electoral district,” she says. “People fear the loss of jobs if the military budget is reduced but we believe that there can be a just transition. People can learn to make solar panels instead of warships or fighter planes.”   

Then there’s the issue of human rights. MtM activists are enraged and motivated by research published by The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. Among other atrocities, Watson analysts report that since 2001, wars have caused 38 million people to become refugees. Worse, nearly a million women, men and children have died, one-third of them civilians, during the same period. Adding to the horror is the monetary outlay: the Watson Institute documents $8 trillion spent on armed conflict worldwide during the past two decades.

Maddening as this is, peace activists note that both outrage and resistance are growing, even among mainstream Democrats. MtM members are heartened that many people are pushing hard against militarism and bloated defense spending. In 2017, for example, the U.S. Conference of Mayors called out the excess and more recently, Congressmembers Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Barbara A. Lee (D-CA), co-chairs of the House Defense Spending Reduction Caucus, introduced HR11. The bill calls on Congress to cut military spending by $100 billion in fiscal 2024. 

“People have been taught to be afraid,” Marcia Newfield of MtM told The Indypendent

“They’ve been conditioned to think that we need to be armed to the teeth to survive. We plan to be out in the streets to contest  this idea and will bird-dog Council members at the gates of City Hall. We need to talk to them about our priorities as a city and as a country. It’s urgent. The population is losing so much because of military spending. We have to revisit what it means to be secure.”  

On Tuesday, April 18th from 12–1 p.m., there will be a Tax Day rally to protest the military budget. The event will take place at 26 Federal Plaza. Another rally, sponsored by the War Resisters League, will take place from 12-1 pm outside the IRS office at 290 Broadway in Manhattan. They will then march to City Hall at 1 pm. For more information go to NYCWarResisters.org or email nycwrl@nycwarresisters.org.

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