After the Debt Ceiling
Was voting for the debt ceiling “deal” a necessary but bitter pill, or a “sugar coated Satan sandwich” as one lawmaker called it? Read a selection of statements from WAND/WiLL Women leaders in Congress, some of whom voted yes and some whom voted no, and see what you think. In the end, we agree with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi who said, “It’s not a deal we like, but it’s a done deal.” And now that it is done, we have some suggestions for the next steps in coming budget debates:
1) Let’s get more women at the table.
The leadership that came up with this deal included only one woman. And even with as vigorous a leader as Nancy Pelosi is, more women are needed. Women who live longer and are often the primary caregivers for children and other family members have a vital perspective. As Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), recently stated, it is “Women are used to having three toddlers and two cookies, and so they know how to solve problems.” It will soon come time to select 12 members for the special Congressional panel to to divide the remaining cookies and aim for further deficit cuts. Let’s make sure women leaders are at this table in significant numbers.
2) Let’s really put Pentagon cuts on the table.
And not just as light appetizers. We are glad that there has been attention drawn to military spending–it does make up over one half of annual discretionary spending, after all. However, upon closer inspection of plans made under the debt ceiling deal, we are worried that cuts to Pentagon spending could be insufficient when push comes to shove. Initially some substantial cuts might come from other areas of so-called “security” spending, like funds for the State Department’s foreign aid and diplomacy. Plus the initial planned “cuts” for the Pentagon budget really only reduce the rate of planned growth. Moreover, it is all too easy to push any Pentagon cuts so far off into later years that they really happen somewhere in the mythical Neverland. Instead, we need to tackle real cuts now with a strategic approach evaluating what is really needed in 21st century security.
And if we are looking for strategically smart cuts to outdated Cold War weapons, we could start with nuclear weapons. Although some in Congress think we need more stealth nuclear bombers to “penetrate the Soviet Union,” most military experts are looking at 21st century threats and raising questions about nuclear policy and spending plans. Many are beginning to realize that perhaps indefinitely maintaining thousands of nuclear warheads with destruction capable of being “delivered” with multiple expensive weapons systems is Dr. Strangelove-era overkill that we can no longer afford.
3) Let’s find a way to grow more for the table.
Most everyone agrees that creating jobs is what our economy desperately needs. Investments are required to do that. Some will tempt us to rely on military spending as a jobs program. Certainly that tactic has been used to push production of expensive weapons systems that even the Pentagon doesn’t want. But that is a short-sighted and unsustainable way to create jobs, not to mention that it does not serve U.S. security needs. Instead, federal investments in other sectors like education and clean energy development produce more jobs that are sustainable and will move our economy forward. Read more about a study done by economists at the University of Massachusetts that shows how a billion dollars spent on a variety of domestic priorities – mass transit, home weatherization, education and health care – would produce more jobs than the same amount spent on the military. Meanwhile, we should let security needs of today guide our strategy and spending priorities for the defense budget.
Help us move the debate forward for sound security and sensible spending. Join us this September 18-20 in Washington, DC at our “Women at the Table of Power” biennial conference, where 150 women state legislators and community leaders will gather for training, education and conversation with policymakers. Register today.
“What if We Really Cut the Pentagon Budget”, William Hartung, Center for International Policy op-ed in Huffington Post, August 2, 2011
WAND Public Policy Director