By PAUL HAMMEL
OMAHA — Officials with Nebraskans for Peace called Monday for support for a bill that would cut the nation’s “bloated” military spending by $100 billion and shift those funds to social issues.
At a press conference in downtown Omaha, officials said America spends more on the military than the next 10 countries combined and that some of the $732 billion defense budget would be better spent on domestic problems, such as securing schools, improving health care and reducing gun violence.
“Let’s see where we can go with some of this money. We need to reinvest in our own self,” said Brittany Cooper, state coordinator with Nebraskans for Peace.
Speakers at the press conference called for support of a bill introduced in the House last week by U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Mark Pocan, D-Wis., to cut the defense budget by $100 billion and reallocate those funds to “prioritize people.”
“It is time that we realign our priorities to reflect the urgent needs of communities across this country that are healing from a pandemic, ongoing economic insecurity, and an international energy crisis — none of which will be resolved through greater military spending,” Lee said in a press release last week.
But U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said now is the wrong time to consider cuts in military spending, with Russia shelling Ukraine and recently threatening other Balkan countries, and with China building a nuclear inventory to rival the U.S.
“We’re in different world now. It’s not a bipartisan world … it’s like a three-way game of chess,” Bacon said.
On Thursday, another member of the Nebraska delegation in Washington, U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, touted her support for a fiscal year 2022-23 defense budget of $857 billion — $45 billion more than requested by the Biden administration. The budget bill advanced out of the committee last week on a vote of 23 to 3, winning bipartisan support.
Pay raise in new budget
“I’m proud of the strong, bipartisan product our committee approved today to provide for the common defense, take care of our military, and support the biggest pay raise for our troops in two decades,” Fischer said in a press release.
She said the proposed budget included a 4.6% raise in military salaries, protected the 55th Wing, based at Offutt Air Force Base, and resisted Biden administration attempts to cut “vital programs.”
Nebraskans for Peace officials called the defense budget “bloated” and wasteful and said it diverted spending away from programs that help the poor and communities of color.
Ron Todd-Meyer, board president of Nebraskans for Peace and a U.S. Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran, pointed out that the U.S. spent $6 trillion over the last 20 years in the Middle East, yet many Americans live in poverty without good access to health care and education.
“Our nation needs to acknowledge the waste of war spending and begin the task of rebuilding a planet that is literally approaching the death of many living beings,” Todd-Meyer said.
Nebraskans for Peace officials said federal funds could be better spent on making schools more secure and buying back assault-style weapons, as well as on improving mental health care.