While progressive organizations, Democrats in Congress and the Obama administration correctly focus on the damage the federal spending cuts to be forced by the March 1 sequester will do to the overall economy and to vital government services, USAction is using Wednesday to underscore that there is some federal spending that is overdue to be cut — at the Pentagon.
The organization, in cooperation with the Pentagon Budget Campaign and others, has launched a “Pull the Pork” day of action to emphasize that “we must cut the things we don’t need, including Pentagon pork, to pay for the things we do like education, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.” The Campaign for America’s Future has endorsed the campaign.
As of early Tuesday there were at least 35 “Pull the Pork” events around the country scheduled for Wednesday. They include a demonstration featuring a giant pig outside the Lockheed Martin Washington office at 12:30 p.m. Supporters can use Twitter (hashtag #PullThePork) to support and follow the events.
The mobilization represents the latest effort by progressives to focus attention on the billions in military spending designed to satisfy the greed of defense contractors and the parochial interests of members of Congress rather than legitimate defense needs. According to the Pull the Pork website, “We can reduce the bloated Pentagon budget by $50 billion-$100 billion a year without harming our national security or our troops.”
The House Progressive Caucus recently included some examples of how that could be accomplished when it released its alternative to the sequester, which will impose $85 billion in across-the-board cuts in a broad range of discretionary government programs.
Over 10 years, the Caucus determined that the government could save $106 billion, for example, by adopting changes in how the U.S. manages its nuclear stockpile in keeping with today’s post-Cold War realities. Reducing global troop levels by 4 percent, and concentrating them where they are most needed, would save $48 billion. Abandoning the troubled F-35 fighter jet in favor of the F-18 would save $23 billion; abandoning another trouble-plagued flight vehicle, the V-22 Osprey, would save $9 billion. And wouldn’t it make more sense to cut $2 billion from the money we spend on military bands than it would to cut the money for, say, Big Bird and his friends at Sesame Street? (The government spends almost 60 percent more annually on military bands than it does on public television programming.)
In addition, liberals and conservatives, in two separate commissions (the Commonwealth Institute and the Stimson research group), have together identified nearly $1 trillion in wasteful military spending, both by responsibly recalibrating our strategic posture and by junking, in the words of one commission, “outdated, wasteful, and ineffective systems that have long been the subject of criticism by congressional research agencies and others.”
Watch for another left-right coalition of groups to announce their call for defense cuts in the coming days. The prominent groups that are now being assembled to endorse a letter on trimming defense waste don’t agree on much — including on how important it is right now to focus on reducing spending overall as opposed to investing in economic growth — but they do agree it is ludicrous to have any discussion about the federal deficit without acknowledging that we cannot afford more Pentagon spending that pads the pockets of corporate executives and lobbyists but adds nothing to our security.
The “Pull the Pork” campaign, by the way, includes a pulled pork recipe. Prepare it in celebration of the quest to take back our economic security from the defense contractors whose high-off-the-hog living has been siphoning it away.