Date: 8/9/2011

Tonight we are going to continue exploring sustainable economics in a world that increasingly seems faced with a major economic collapse.

Frequently mentioned as a way of getting the nation back on the right track is to cut back on military expenditures and to devote the savings to domestic and international humanitarian assistance. There seems to be no reason that we should be cutting back on social services and education while the military continues to consume over 50% of our discretionary spending.

We’ll have two guests tonight who have very specific ideas about how we can reduce military spending and resurrect social programs.  First, we’ll talk with Jo Comerford, who is the Executive Director of the National Priorities Project, which monitors military spending and favors changing our national priorities.

Then we’ll talk with Anita Dancs, an economics professor at Western New England University, who will discuss specific green initiatives and social support services that can potentially create more jobs than the military programs they might replace.

The opinions voiced on Ecotopia do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of KZFR, its staff, Board of Directors, or programmers.

Listen to the Program

Our Discussion with Jo Comerford

Tonight we are talking about national priorities and a sustainable economy, with a particular focus on the cost of the military.  Our guest on the phone is Jo Comerford, Executive Director of the National Priorities Project, based in Northampton, Massachusetts.  The Project monitors  military spending and presents data on the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the cost of the military generally, and the minute-by-minute costs of war to taxpayers in the Sacramento Valley, the foothills, and beyond [our listening area].  She is also a community organizer, including work with The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and with the American Friends Service Committee’s justice and peace-related work in the western Massachusetts.

–There is an enormous amount of budget information on the National Priorities Project website <>.  But to get us started, please give us some ballpark figures.  What is the proposed defense budget for 2012?  What will be the additional costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  And (as the National Priorities Project points out), there are all sorts of military costs hidden elsewhere in the budget (e.g., Homeland Security)–what are those costs?

–There has been talk in the White House and Congress about cuts in military spending…the figure of $400 billion is often mentioned. [Leon Panetta just issued a warning that cutting more than that would cripple the military.]  What are these proposed cuts? Is this what NPP has been proposing?  Are you satisfied with these proposed cuts?  Is cutting the military dramatically a threat to our security? Are there any cuts in the new debt limit/spending cut package that make sense?

–NPP has also done a good deal of research into possible additional cuts, especially of military programs that are out-of-date or irrelevant in our time.  Please tell us about some of those. What are your preferred programs for getting the ax?

–Where do we stand in terms of Congressional budget negotiations for FY 2012?  What battles are looming?  What are the prospects of getting some significant cuts in the military right now?

–Please tell us how people can get involved in the movement.  In addition to the National Priorities Project <>, are there other organizations or individuals that our listeners should know about?

Our Conversation with Anita Dancs

Tonight we are talking about military expenditures and, more specifically, how cutting the military budget and getting out of the war business could create a more sustainable world and nation.  With us on the phone now is Anita Dancs (It’s spelled D-A-N-C-S and pronounced <DUNCH>.  She is a member of the economics department at Western New England University and former research director for the National Priorities Project. She has written and taught widely here and abroad on budget priorities and social issues.  In the first part of the program we talked with Jo Comerford about cuts in military spending.  In this segment, we’d like to talk about the effects of those kinds of cuts.

–One often hears, sometimes even from “progressives,” that cutting military spending would be an economic disaster–jobs lost, the economy taking a nosedive. Further, we know that most members of Congress have military installations and contractors in their home states, and they all seem to worry that cutting military spending would negatively affect jobs in their electoral district. What would happen if we made big cuts in military spending starting in 2012?

–How does current military spending negatively affect our social and educational programs?  Which areas (e.g., housing, health care, education) seem to you to have been damaged most by military spending?  What will be future costs if we continue to value the military over social justice?  [From NPP: climate investment, energy conservation, air marshalls, food and nutrition, National Endowment for the Arts, Unemployment Compensation.]

–You have argued that spending on non-military priorities can create more, not fewer jobs.  Please explain.  What is the evidence for this?

–We’ve also heard a great deal about job creation through a green economy, and California certainly is something of a greenhouse for that kind of work.  Yet even here, politicians are arguing against green legislation and want to roll back emissions limits based on an argument that green regulations cost jobs.  Comments?

–If you were in charge of next year’s U.S. budget (and we wish you were), how would you re-prioritize military versus non-military spending?  What would be the broad dimensions of a “peace dividend” if we successfully reoriented spending?

–Economics is a field that is intimidating to many of us.  Could you recommend some additional sources of reading, information, or economic activism for our listeners?

Announcements: Taking Action on National Priorities

As we close tonight, we want to tell you about two upcoming events that are linked closely to the budget and military issues we’ve discussed this evening.

Tonight at 8:30–just an hour and a half from now–Peace Activists will gather at the Bidwell Amphitheater on the CSU campus for a candlelight vigil commemorating the 66th anniversary of the nucear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Mayor Schwab will be on hand to read a proclamation and information will be available on the anti-nuclear movement, both the use of nucelar weaponry and the dangers of nuclear electrical generation.  Again, that’s at the Bidwell Amphitheater on Big Chico Creek on the CSU campus at 8:30

And then on Saturday, August 13, a movement called “Rebuilding the American Dream,” will hold a rally at City Plaza, 10 am, to challenge the recent debt ceiling “deal” that, as Representative Pelosi has said, “doesn’t make anybody happy.”   The Rebuild the Dream Movement is comprised of North State residents who are calling for the government to meet the needs of ALL Amerians by prioritizing creating good jobs, saving Social Security and Medicare,  building strong communities, and fair taxation. They call upon our Representative Wally Herger and Congress to stop cuts to vital human services, to close corporate tax loopholes and have America’s wealthy, and to have corporations pay their fair share of the burden.