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The War at Home

When Dorchester People for Peace was founded during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq many of us understood that the war was part of a larger system of militarism, injustice and racism that undergirded the drive for empire abroad and the maintenance of privilege at home. Even so, some may have seen the phrase “War at Home” included in our original statement of purpose as metaphorical, compared with the real impending “shooting wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not any longer! A genuine War at Home is increasingly upon us – and the underlying connection between aggressive wars abroad and attacks on the people at home has rarely been more evident.

What has been brewing here during the last decade of permanent war has been a full-scale assault by the Rightwing/Wall Street/Big-Money elite against the vast majority of ordinary US citizens -- along with an attack on the very foundations of our Democracy and the prospect of a decent future for most of us. The War at Home is being played out in the halls of Congress and state legislatures, unemployment lines, streets of foreclosed houses, at shuttered factories with jobs exported by giant corporations. Meanwhile we see our civil liberties eroded and our unions under attack. Everywhere, those with real wealth have been seeing their fortunes grow exponentially – and their taxes decrease – while supposedly “broke” governments freeze or reduce services for the poor, cut workers’ pay and benefits -- while targeting basic programs like Social Security and Medicare that most people rely on for a minimum standard of living in old age. Meanwhile we continue to pour $Trillions into the Pentagon and the Banks.

Although the Republican (Tea) Party and its media enablers are the main political vehicle for this assault, it has to be said that the Democrats have been offering scant resistance, at times even agreeing with the right-wing premises of fiscal austerity and low taxes for the rich and corporations, at other times simply meek and ineffective in their opposition.

Maybe an upsurge of resistance by working people – especially dramatized by the Wisconsin unions, with support across the nation – is the beginning. Nothing less will suffice to turn things around. If we want to stop US wars abroad, we have to win the War at Home.

Much of the above is implicit in DPP’s founding statement and in our day-to-day work, even if we don’t often discuss the “big picture” among ourselves. Perhaps we should find time for a deeper conversation about these issues soon.

Meanwhile, it is important not to buy into the false narrative that is being promoted by the Republicans, the mainstream media – and often the Democrats too. Let’s make sure we have our fact right when speaking out. Here are some TRUTHS:

1. The country and the States are not “broke.” The deficits are not caused by non-military discretionary spending, which make up a comparatively small part of overall Federal spending.

2. The short-term budget deficits are due almost entirely to three factors: the economic crash triggered by the banks and Wall Street, with the resulting fall in Federal and State revenues and increasing costs attributed to high unemployment; the continuing tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations, which took off under Reagan and have accelerated under Bush; the wars and military spending, which have doubled in the past decade.

3. “Stimulus spending” did not “fail” because there was barely any net increase in government spending when cuts in states and cities are taken into account. The increase in Federal spending and investments was simply too small to have much of an economic offsetting effect.

4. There is no Social Security crisis. In fact, Social Security surpluses have been helping to reduce the Federal deficit for many years. There are modest long-term shortfall, but most of the problems were fixed in the 1980’s-1990’s when regressive payroll taxes were raised on working people – but hardly at all on the wealthy. There is a looming serious short-fall with Medicare (financed independently from Social Security), but this is due principally to exploding healthcare costs and the wastefulness of our private medical system.

5. State and Union workers are not the problem! Public workers earn substantially less than their private-sector counterparts when corrected for education and experience; their benefits are somewhat higher than average, but that is mainly because they are unionized (union members in the private sector have better wages and benefits than non-union workers.) Wisconsin had no budget deficit this year until the newly elected governor enacted big tax breaks for business as soon as taking office. Budget-cutting now will increase unemployment and endanger the still tepid economic recovery.

6. The public agrees with us, as many recent polls attest. When given the information and options, most people strongly oppose cuts in spending for education, health, Social Security and Medicare, preferring raising taxes on the wealthy and cutting military spending (and foreign aid). 

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