Briefing on How Federal Spending Priorities Affect New York State

June 2, 2000. Remarks by Ed Bloch, Director, The Interfaith Alliance of New York State at The Impact of Federal Spending Priorities on New York State, an educational briefing:

As the technological capability to achieve weapons of mass destruction (and, in fact, incineration of the planet) continue to evolve, we are confronted with a fundamental ethical question. Where does true security lie and where shall we spend our treasure to achieve it???

Compelling evidence demonstrates that technology cannot provide dependable security. We will find security only when people outside our borders and within them can achieve the scriptural demands of all faiths and live in peace, relative equality and mutual respect — and not before.

The true time bomb grows out of the polarization of wealth, income and services provided. And, as FPI conclusively demonstrated earlier this year, New York State is the pre-eminent example of such polarization. So that mountains of wealth heaped on the Pentagon and its providers comes at the expense of care for those least well off, making our increasingly violent community more fragile than ever.

I recently had occasion to hear former Air Force Col. Robert Bowman, in charge of the “Star Wars” program under Presidents Carter and Ford and he reached that conclusion. “In its earliest years,” said Bowman. “Star Wars was intended to be defensive. With Reagan’s advent, it became clear that, if it ever became operational, it would be solely aggressive and many of the Joint Chiefs were appalled at the escalation. If ‘rogue states’ ever want to do a job on us, the method of delivery will be a panel truck of the type that did a job on Oklahoma City.”

So there’s the tradeoff. In April Congress passed the Fiscal Year 2001 Budget Resolution, setting federal spending at $1.87 trillion with $310.8 billion for the military, $18.2 billion more than FY’00. And, of course, this without the major enemy that justified Cold War escalation.

We all know that money thrown at the Pentagon and its burgeoning munitions industries will not go toward relief for most of us and others here today, far more qualified than I, will spell that out in glorious technicolor.

We in the interfaith community see ours as a somewhat different mission. Most of us, including many of a fundamentalist conviction, see a nation focused on individualism rather than community (read “hurray for me; the heck with you”); a nation “possessed” (in the demonic sense) with its possessions and entranced with “anything goes” thrills.

Clearly this caricature, the antithesis of community, helps to a large degree to explain the mindless violence which is sweeping our country and will not be stopped by forcible crackdowns. It’s the familiar “guns or butter” shakedown except that now the guns are turned against us, whether in our hands or in the hands of other nationals who are customers of the international corporate power structure.

Our treasure is going more and more to the forces that do not make us more secure but simply raise the ante in the Mutually Assured Destruction category (MAD, for short). And because that is so, there is relatively less for the community building that has to be our hope. There is no substitute for what’s right. The word is beginning to leak out that the right is also the most practical.

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