The 25-Percent Solution to America’s Job Crisis

Michael Prokosch

A Blackhawk helicopter (R) carrying U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrives in Baghdad's Green Zone in December 2009.

We must spend money on work, not war

Unemployment’s still rising. Businesses started hiring last month, but that only pulled discouraged workers back into the job-seeking queue. And there are tens of millions more people behind them.

For most of us, the recession isn’t ending. Instead, it’s offering us a choice. We can wait a year, three years, or maybe forever for the private sector to put all of us to work. Or we can create a massive jobs program, put millions to work, boost state income and sales taxes, end the state budget crises, and revive our economy.

And how will we pay for that? By moving our tax money out of the Pentagon and putting it to work for us. This country spends about $1 trillion — a thousand billion dollars — on war every year. We can start by shifting just a quarter, $250 billion, into job-creating programs.

Doing so will not mean cutting veterans’ care, benefits, or support for enlisted service members. We could free up more than $250 billion by ending the war in Afghanistan; withdrawing all troops and contractors from Iraq; closing half of the 1,000 US military installations on foreign soil; retiring a few carrier battle groups and air wings; and cutting waste and fraud. (For more details, visit 25Per​centSo​lu​tion​.org.)

We can also stop manufacturing Cold War weapons systems – but not before we have programs in place that convert factories to green and civilian manufacturing, re-train workers, and insulate manufacturing communities against tax losses.

There’s more that can be cut. But $250 billion is a decent down payment on an economy that works for most of us.

What kind of jobs should we create? Jobs to restore the schools, libraries, and youth programs that states are slashing now. Jobs to rebuild our physical infrastructure, which is now hundreds of billions in arrears. Jobs for the worst hit communities, where real unemployment is at Depression levels.

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.)’s Local Jobs for America” bill offers a good template for creating those jobs. It saves and restores public-sector jobs and aims to create new jobs for the poorest and longest unemployed Americans, who are disproportionately African-Americans and Latino.

But if Miller’s bill is going to end this jobless recession, it needs to be several times its present size. And it needs a funding source.

This won’t happen immediately. It takes time to close bases, pull troops out, and decommission aircraft carriers. But it also takes time to set up new jobs and put out contracts for infrastructure repair. And this recession isn’t going anywhere soon.

This grim realization is sinking in: mayors, members of congress and grassroots organizations across the country are saying: Move our money!

Mike Prokosch is a Boston-based activist.

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Michael Prokosch is an economics educator and organizer who volunteers with the Boston, Mass.-based Campaign to Fund Our Communities-Cut Military Spending 25%.
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