the military-industrial-congressional complex

We just watched Bill Moyer's spinoff program, "Now". Interviewed was a great guy who wrote, "Why We Fight," an in-depth look at the tentacles of the military-industrial-congressional complex (we called it the iron triangle). It's so deeply intrenched in every Congressional district, by conscious design in the case of the B-1 bomber and probably other weapons systems - that it is not opposed. It provides jobs.

Left out - nearly always - is the fact that spending a million or a billion dollars by government in any segment of the economy would create a lot more jobs. I talked during the 80s and early 90s about this, and started an economic conversion project with Utica College professors, pollster John Zogby, and a cross-section of the county, to examine how military bases and companies could convert to a peacetime economy and create more jobs. The project went on for four years. Finally Griffiss Air Force Base was closed after the Cold War ended, but people didn't want to face reality in advance of that fact and do the planning necessary so that innocent workers wouldn't be left out in the cold. During WW II, 90% of U.S. resources went toward the war effort, I learned. In 1943-44, planners started discussing economic conversion - in what direction our "enormously productive economy" should go when these resources were no longer needed for the war. Here is one retailing analyst's prescription: "We must make consumption our way of life, seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate." Compare that with the Iroquois principle, "In our every decision we must consider its impact on the next seven generations." Our consumer society is no accident. The result is that 4% of the world now consumes and discards 25% - 40% of the world's resources. We consume 43% of world oil produced (as of February, 2006). Increasingly, society funnels this wealth into the hands of the relatively few. After WW II, our "enormously productive economy" could have instituted a "Marshall Plan" for the world over the decades, eliminating poverty, injustice, and lack of opportunity that result in violence and war. We apparently have enough money to spend nearly a billion dollars a day in Iraq and Afghanistan; we could have spent a fraction of that to create sufficiency for all globally - basic nutrition, clean water, housing, education, preventive and primary health care - $60-$70 billion annually as estimated by the U.N. Our society could have continued long-standing American values of thrift, simplicity, and sharing; promoted the arts, creativity, lifelong education, a shorter work week, and sufficiency for all people - decent affordable housing (an American goal in 1949), basic health care for all, subsidized education for all who earn good grades and fully funded Head Start for those who need it, a clean environment, alternative energy researched and implemented decades ago, quality child care because we know that in the first years of life, brain growth is greatest and basic emotional health is determined; in short, we could have promoted human potential and a greater quality of life, instead of promoting the acquisition of things we don't need and can't afford and valuing appearance over substance.

the Ecovillage in Ithaca, NY
We just visited the Ecovillage in Ithaca, a wonderful place featuring sustainable living in all they do. It's a spinoff of the Global Walk For a Livable World, which I participated in in 1990, an educational effort to raise consciousness about the environment.