Move tax dollars from Pentagon back to people
By Shelley Pineo-Jensen and Michael Carrigan
Published: 12:00 a.m., April 15, 2014
Today is tax day — the day our income taxes come due. Every year Americans mail their returns with little idea where their tax dollars are going.
According to The Washington Post, the United States spends far more than any other country on defense and security. Since 2001, the base defense budget has soared to $530 billion from $287 billion — and that’s before accounting for the primary costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2011, the United States spent more on its military than the next 13 nations combined, including China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Japan and India.
President Eisenhower’s warning against the rise of the military-industrial complex has gone unheeded. Our tax dollars are harvested as “defense” spending by multinational corporations such as Shell Oil and Halliburton, enriching and empowering them while the people’s needs are unmet.
Congress appropriates 57 percent of discretionary spending every year to the Pentagon, which stands as a major obstacle to solving serious problems our families and communities face — poverty, joblessness, a crumbling infrastructure.
Billions of dollars that could be used to feed hungry children, create jobs and rebuild our roads and bridges are instead going toward outdated weapons systems our country no longer needs. It’s time for Congress to move the money out of the Pentagon and back to our communities.
In addition to redirecting our federal tax dollars, we need to redirect corporate profits to pay for vital programs in Oregon. According to the Oregon Center for Public Policy, at least 24 corporations that made a profit in Oregon in 2011, including eight with profits of more than $5 million, paid no Oregon income taxes for that year. Furthermore, 38 corporations with Oregon profits used tax credits to reduce their 2011 tax liability below the corporate minimum tax.
When corporations pay less tax than they should, they make it harder for our state to reduce crowding in our schools and invest in other public programs we need. Thousands of middle-class Oregon families are paying more in income taxes than some corporations pay after taking in millions in profits. Oregonians want every corporation, and especially the profitable ones, to pay a fair share to support the common good. The Oregon Legislature and governor need to change our tax system so that corporations and the wealthy contribute more in taxes.
Due to anti-worker trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the economic recession, the number of family wage jobs in the United States has declined dramatically. Former members of the middle class now toil as laborers with low pay, no job security, and no retirement or other benefits.
These two extremes — a bloated military budget and under-employed workers — represent the degree to which the political power of corporations has eroded democracy and core American values.
Instead of orienting our national goals around militarism and corporate profits, we need to focus on human beings.
Instead of reducing funding for education, we need more and better paid teachers with modern facilities.
Instead of excessive funding of homeland security and the National Security Agency, we need to better fund programs that effectively address climate change.
Instead of subsidizing the oil industry, we need domestic green jobs.
Instead of exporting jobs in anti-worker trade agreements, we need to rebuild our national transportation infrastructure.
Instead of for-profit health insurance, we need single payer not-for-profit health care.
Most importantly, instead of funding war after war, we need to fund programs that feed the 20 percent to 25 percent of American children who went hungry in the last 30 days.
To achieve these aims, it is taxpayers’ duty to become better informed and work to challenge undue corporate influence. If the majority of ordinary people come together, we have the numbers to influence the system and change the current biases favoring corporations and the wealthy. We have the brains, the heart, and the courage to stop needless war, employ workers with dignity and respect, stem climate change and restore the biosphere so that it will continue to sustain life.
Those of us in different movements who are striving to create a better world must work together if we are to change the system to effectively address people’s need for peace, equity for all and a healthy planet. We will come together today to call for just such a change. On this tax day, please join a broad coalition of peace, justice, environmental and labor activists at the downtown Eugene Post Office for a noon “Fight Climate Change, Not War” rally. All are welcome.
Shelley Pineo-Jensen is chairwoman of Eugene/Springfield Solidarity Network/Jobs with Justice. Michael Carrigan is peace organizer for the Community Alliance of Lane County.