The debt “super committee”—known officially as the Joint Select Deficit Reduction Committee—which is tasked with finding by Thanksgiving an additional $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in spending cuts or new revenues over the next ten years, had its first meeting at the end of last week.
While most Republicans would like all of those cuts to come from much needed social programs, like education and health care, there are many more humane ways to address the issue of our country’s debt. One option would be to let those Bush tax cuts expire as scheduled at the end of 2012—which would all by itself generate $2.5 trillion over the next ten years. Problem solved! At the Nation, Katrina vanden Huevel offers another possibility, writing that the committee could:
support a modest financial transaction tax that reins in speculation—such as the one called for by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, or used in the UK—which could raise up to $175 billion per year. (Hey, combine that with closing the corporate tax havens that cost $100 billion in lost revenues every year and your job is done, super committee.)
A third solution would involve cutting the Pentagon’s bloated budget and ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which could also in turn create millions of new jobs here in the US. As Robert Greenwald and Derrick Crowe explained in a recent article:
A 2009 study by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) shows that military spending (“wasted” spending or not) is a poor creator of jobs. If you take $1 billion from the military budget and just give it back to taxpayers, you’d create about 28 percent more jobs. If you took that same $1 billion and spent it on education, you’d create 150 percent more jobs. Put another way, at minimum, for every billion dollars you move out of the domestic economy and spend on military purposes, you essentially destroy at least 3,222 jobs.
Using the data from this study, David Swanson writes that we could even create 29 million jobs—one for every unemployed or underemployed American right now—if there were only the political will.
Let’s say we want to create 29 million jobs in 10 years. That’s 2.9 million each year. Here’s one way to do it. Take $100 billion from the Department of Defense and move it into education. That creates 1.75 million jobs per year. Take another $50 billion and move it into healthcare spending. There’s an additional 400,000 jobs. Take another $100 billion and move it into clean energy. There’s another 550,000 jobs. And take another $62 billion and turn it into tax cuts, generating an additional 200,000 jobs. Now the military spending in the Department of Energy, the State Department, Homeland Security, and so forth have not been touched. And the Department of Defense has been cut back to about $388 billion, which is to say: more than it was getting 10 years ago when our country went collectively insane.
That doesn’t sound like such a crazy idea to me.
Whether the money comes from letting tax cuts for the wealthy expire, making sure corporations pay closer to their fair share in taxes, or cutting the Pentagon and ending the wars, there are clearly many ways to close the gap without touching social programs that support the poor and most vulnerable members of our society.
Two Iraqi peace activists discuss their commitment to peace and undoing the violence wrought by the last two U.S. wars in their country.
Waging Nonviolence is a leading publication on social movements around the world, and we’re looking to expand our coverage and work with new writers.
Back in 1989, workers joined students in pro-democracy protests. Now students are joining workers agitating for better conditions.