UNION COUNTY, NJ — New Jersey Peace Action, one of the nation’s oldest grassroots disarmament organizations, said plans are in the works for asking Union County residents to join them on their mission of promoting peace.
The NJPA, whose primary mission includes the abolition of nuclear weapons and working to change the nation’s spending priorities by moving money from the military budget to programs that address human needs, will be asking public officials, community leaders and residents of the county to ask the county’s mayors to pass “Move the Money” resolutions, which would call for moving up to 25 percent of the nation’s military budget to address human needs and services.
The resolution drives home the issue of the percentage of the nation’s budget currently being spent on the military.
“Whereas each year the Pentagon and other federal departments engaged in war and preparations for war are provided 55 percent of the Federal Discretionary Budget, that is money raised by our taxes and borrowing, leaving all other needs of the people — education, veterans benefits, housing and community, health care, Social Security and unemployment and labor, energy and environment, international affairs, science, transportation, food and agriculture — to divide up among them the remaining 45 percent,” reads the sample resolution.
The resolution also calls for public hearings in order to discuss the extent of the city’s public and human services needs, existing gaps between the needs of municipalities and funds provided by taxes, grants and debt, and how those gaps could be met by reducing the annual national military budget.
Directors of relevant city departments, including community services, public works, engineering, transportation, parks and recreation and education, will also be urged to attend public forums to discuss their departments’ unfulfilled needs.
Madelyn Hoffman, executive director of the NJPA, told LocalSource that too little of the nation’s budget is going toward addressing human needs.
“We’ve been involved with the “Move the Money” campaign, which focuses on the military budget and how much discretionary funding Congress has,” Hoffman said in a recent phone interview.
Hoffman noted that while the military budget has increased, the amount of money allotted to education, housing, and the environment is far less.
“Just 6 percent goes to education and 4 percent to housing,” Hoffman said. “What impacts places like Union County, and specifically Elizabeth, are cutbacks to Meals on Wheels, housing, and food. We want to get local towns to hold public hearings and we’d invite residents to urge their mayors to pass resolutions. We would work with local residents and community leaders.”
According to Hoffman, organizations such as Elizabeth’s St. Joseph’s Social Services Center have joined forces with the NJPA for many of their initiatives. St. Joseph’s also serves as one of NJPA’s “Peace Sites,” a designated space dedicated to promoting peace.
Sister Jacinta Fernandes, of St. Joseph’s, told LocalSource that the organization is aligned with NJPA’s mission.
“For the past 30 years, St Joseph Social Service Center has been a Peace Site,” Fernandes said in an April 7 email. “We are very much in accord with the long-term work and goals of NJ Peace Action The fact that so much money is being spent on building walls and strengthening the military while cutting programs for people in need is unconscionable. True peace will only come when we see all human beings as our sisters and brothers and build bridges instead of walls.”
According to Hoffman, the idea of creating peace sites was developed by a former member of the NJPA, Lou Kousin, of Cranford.
“He looked at the world and said that there were military bases everywhere in the world and he wanted an antidote to that,” Hoffman said of Kousin.
Hoffman maintains that the current administration’s recent proposal to lift the sequester on the military budget and allow for increases in military spending may hit communities hard.
“His proposed $54 billion increase in the military budget is the largest since the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at almost 10 percent,” Hoffman said of President Donald Trump. “This country would be much better off if we took that increase plus the cost of building a $21.6 billion wall between the U.S. and Mexico and spent it instead on improving public education, creating jobs, protecting the environment, lowering the costs of health care or improving crumbling infrastructure.”
For more information about New Jersey Peace Action visit www.njpeaceaction.org.