When the wealthy nations of the world meet as the G8 or in any other gathering, it’s interesting to imagine what they would do if they followed the golden rule, valued grandchildren, disliked unnecessary suffering, or wished to outgrow ancient forms of barbarism, or any combination of those.
The United States alone is perfectly capable, if it chooses, of enacting a global marshall plan, or — better — a global rescue plan. Every year the United States spends, through various governmental departments, roughly $1.2 trillion on war and war preparations. Every year the United States foregoes well over $1 trillion in taxes that billionaires and centimillionaires and corporations should be paying.
If we understand that out-of-control military spending is making us less safe, rather than more — just as Eisenhower warned and so many current experts agree — it is clear that reducing military spending is a critical end in itself. If we add to that the understanding that military spending hurts, rather than helping, economic well-being, the imperative to reduce it is that much clearer.
If we understand that wealth in the United States is concentrated at medieval levels and that this concentration is destroying representative government, social cohesion, morality in our culture, and the pursuit of happiness for millions of people, it is clear that taxing extreme wealth and income are critical ends in themselves.
Still missing from our calculation is the unimaginably huge consideration of what we are not now doing but easily could do. It would cost us $30 billion per year to end hunger around the world. We just spent nearly $90 billion for another year of the “winding down” war on Afghanistan. Which would you rather have: three years of children not dying of hunger all over the earth, or year #13 of killing people in the mountains of central Asia? Which do you think would make the United States better liked around the world?
It would cost us $11 billion per year to provide the world with clean water. We’re spending $20 billion per year on just one of the well-known useless weapons systems that the military doesn’t really want but which serves to make someone rich who controls Congress members and the White House with legalized campaign bribery and the threat of job elimination in key districts. Of course, such weapons begin to look justified once their manufacturers begin selling them to other countries too. Raise your hand if you think giving the world clean water would make us better liked abroad and safer at home.
For similar affordable amounts, the United States, with or without its wealthy allies, could provide the earth with education, programs of environmental sustainability, encouragement to empower women with rights and responsibilities, the elimination of major diseases, etc. For those who recognize the environmental crisis as another critical demand as urgent in its own right as the war-making crisis, the plutocracy crisis, or the unmet human needs crisis, a global rescue plan that invests in green energy and sustainable practices appears even more powerfully to be the moral demand of our time.
War-ending, earth-saving projects could be made profitable, just as prisons and coal mines and predatory lending are made profitable now by public policy. War-profiteering could be banned or rendered impractical. We have the resources, knowledge, and ability. We don’t have the political will. The chicken-and-egg problem traps us. We can’t take steps to advance democracy in the absence of democracy. A female face on an elite ruling class won’t solve this. We can’t compel our nation’s government to treat other nations with respect when it has no respect even for us. A program of foreign aid imposed by imperial-minded arrogance won’t work. Spreading subservience under the banner of “democracy” won’t save us. Imposing peace through armed “peace-keepers” prepared to kill won’t work. Disarming only so-much, while continuing to suppose that a “good war” might be needed, won’t get us far. We need a better view of the world and a way to impose it on officials who can be made to actually represent us.
Such a project is possible, and understanding how easy it would be for powerful officials to enact a global rescue plan is part of how we can motivate ourselves to demand it. The money is available several times over. The globe we have to rescue will include our own country as well. We don’t have to suffer more than we are suffering now in order to greatly benefit others. We can invest in health and education and green infrastructure in our own towns as well as others’ for less than we now dump into bombs and billionaires.
Such a project would do well to consider programs of public service that involve us directly in the work to be done, and in the decisions to be made. Priority could be given to worker-owned and worker-run businesses. Such projects could avoid an unnecessary nationalistic focus. Public service, whether mandatory or voluntary, could include options to work for foreign and internationally run programs as well as those based in the United States. The service, after all, is to the world, not just one corner of it. Such service could include peace work, human shield work, and citizen diplomacy. Student exchange and public-servant exchange programs could add travel, adventure, and cross-cultural understanding. Nationalism, a phenomenon younger than and just as eliminable as war, would not be missed.
You may say I’m a dreamer. We number in the hundreds of millions.
Photo by Kenneth Lu under Creative Commons license