Arms reduction and global reconstruction:
A blueprint for the year 2000
(for a contest I didn’t win))
If I were president of the United States, I would use the slashed defense budget to establish a public works program to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. Many bridges, roads, and tunnels are in dire need of repair, posing a threat to public safety. I would hire chronically unemployed individuals particularly those who lost their defense industry jobs. I would also set up a work release program to employ non-violent offenders as a way of not only reducing the prison population but to give them job skills they need to survive. Repairs would take years so this program would supply a steady stream of jobs.
I would then bolster our public schools to provide our youngsters with a solid education to help them compete in the job market. Also, I would set up a program for students who accepted public service jobs to receive reduced student loans. Students would have to work in low income or rural communities or go abroad to rebuild devastated communities to make them safe, habitable and economically self-sufficient.
I would also increase student aid to low and middle income students. Students shouldn’t be denied a quality education because they cannot afford to pay tuition.
My next priority would be to establish a subsidized health care system to provide medical care for the millions of Americans who are under or uninsured. The program would be similar to HMOs already in existence and subscribers pay a monthly premium based on income. In exchange, they receive access to health care which would be strongly based on preventative care.
My attention would then turn to improving the quality of life for our citizens. I favor mandatory recycling as a way to reduce waste and to preserve our already fragile environment. I would improve and expand public transportation. In less developed countries, I would assist with reforestation, food production and conservation. Unfortunately, some Third World countries as well as Eastern Europe are major polluters of the air and water. To modernize, these nations must learn to conserve energy, increase food production and drastically curtail pollution. To achieve these goals, the more prosperous nations must provide them with the technical expertise and financial backing to make these changes possible.
I believe housing is a basic right and not a privilege. I would begin the massive job of rehabilitating abandoned buildings in our inner cities and rural areas to provide affordable housing for low and middle income residents. Once an area becomes saturated with abandoned and burned out buildings property values fall, neighborhood quality weakens and residents leave, including businesses. Nearly all American cities have fallen victim to urban decay and as a result we are faced with an unprecedented number of homeless people, many of whom are children. Government in many cases provides temporary housing and pays private owners exorbitant rates so it seems reasonable and cost effective to move people into permanent housing. I would pursue a strategy in several ways. First, I would encourage private developers to get into the low and moderate income housing through tax incentives and loan guarantees. In return, they would construct new housing or rehabilitate existing housing. Owners would accept less than market value rent or base it on the tenant’s income. Tenants would be responsible for the apartment’s upkeep and contribute to the overall care of the building. Loans and grants to individuals or groups would be available to rehabilitate abandoned buildings then move into them. Home ownership gives a tenant more incentive to maintain the property and provides the neighborhood with a stable tax base. Such plans seem reasonable to pursue such a plan.
My third approach would be to increase subsidized group homes that are safe, clean and decent for our mentally ill, physically disabled and people with AIDS. Many people end up homeless because they cannot afford housing when they become ill or disabled. Millions of mentally and physically handicapped people once lived in large institutions because of the shortage of available affordable homes. With support and supervision, disabled people can survive on their own. Some can even become gainfully employed. Properly funded and managed group homes are not only cost effective but provide residents with a humane environment as well.
The US has an enormous problem with illicit drugs and gang violence. I would propose gun control legislation. While such laws would not completely end gang violence, they would reduce the number of firearms available especially for illegal resale. The proliferation of weapons has a devastating impact on the health and well-being of our nation. No community is untouched by gang violence.
I would legalize drugs as a way to end the violence. I don’t see any other way of ending the gang/drug violence. Legalization would not increase addiction nor would it encourage young people to experiment with drugs. Furthermore legalization would take the profit out of the illegal drug trade and reduce the fierce competition among rivals. Thus far, we have spent billions upon billions through law enforcement and nothing has halted the drug trade or the flow of drugs into this country.
Other domestic programs include the lack of affordable day care for low and middle income working parents. I would offer tax breaks to companies that agreed to offer on-site day care. Studies demonstrate that employers with on-site day care have lower rates of absenteeism and lateness. There is higher morale. Daycare should not be free but affordable. My second approach would be to expand government subsidized daycare. Eligible parents would receive a tax credit or a reduced rate so they can remain in the workforce. Single parents, especially women, often end up in poverty or on public assistance because of lack of affordable daycare. No parent should be on welfare or unemployed because daycare is beyond their reach.
With significant reductions in arms manufacturing, unemployment will spike. Entire communities rely on weapons production. A decrease in defense spending will have devastating effects. Workers must be retrained to make their skills competitive with market demand. Munitions factories must be retooled for peaceful purposes such as high tech products, electronics, etc. Weapons suppliers kept people employed, paid taxes and provided community stability.
The world we live in is on a collision course with disaster. On a world-wide basis, we have witnessed severe droughts, famines, explosive population growth and widespread unemployment. The defense industry was kept profitable for years because of man’s insatiable appetite for war and destruction, especially in the Third World. Civil wars raged throughout much of Africa, Central America, Southeast Asia and now the former Yugoslavia. The US as well as the former Soviet Union has supplied these countries and warlords with an unlimited supply of weapons. As a result, a small but powerful group of investors and “middlemen” have become fabulously rich. Money has a strangle hold on people, even if it means that many will suffer so that a few can profit. Our preoccupation with war has left us woefully unprepared to deal with social, economic and environmental problems.
Therefore, it is essential to strive towards world peace. Otherwise, it seems inevitable that one biblical prophecy will come true – “those who live by the sword shall perish by the sword.”
To attain world peace, arms manufacturers must refuse to sell weapons to warring nations. Without weapons, it seems that some of the fighting factions would have to sit down and negotiate. How can we expect peace if we continue to supply them with weapons? War cannot be waged with words alone. Wars are fought with weapons. No one ever died from an onslaught of words but millions have perished from bullets, land mines, tanks, and bombs.
Population explosion in the Third World threatens the planet’s ability to sustain life. By the next century, we will be in a desperate struggle to find ample food sources, water, and energy to accommodate the expected doubling of the world’s population by the year 2025. Efforts must begin now to stem population growth. However, during the Reagan/Bush years funding for family planning in Third World nations were reduced not increased. The religious right opposes birth control and rallied conservative members of Congress to curtail or eliminate funding if the subject of abortion was even discussed. Millions of Third World women die during childbirth and infants often do not reach their first birthdays due to poor healthcare, poverty and disease. Does God really want the poor and dispossessed to be fruitful and multiply when they live in shacks without access to food and clean water? The narrow-minded views of conservative Christians especially the Catholic Church have crushing effects on the lives of Third World women and children most of whom aren’t even Christian or Catholic.
Lastly, the spread of AIDS has taken the lives of thousands of Americans thus far. Millions are affected world-wide. Medical research is just now approaching the limited testing of an AIDS vaccine. A cure is nowhere in sight. AIDS prevention programs are hampered in many Third World countries because educational material often mentions male homosexual sex as a means of transmission. Christian groups adamantly oppose homosexuality and don’t want the word mentioned to literature handed out to young people. Some nations such as China claim they don’t have AIDS cases. How many people will die because of ignorance and shame?
There are many worthwhile causes that should receive funding as a result of arms reduction. Bombs have not made a better world. The prolonged and widespread proliferation of the world-wide arms build-up has caused some of the problems we now face. For years defense budgets received more funding than highway repair, education, health care, conservation, and food production.
What will future researchers think when remains of our society are examined? Will they be shocked that we spent more money on weapons than hospitals? That we built better bombs than schools? We killed in the name of God but would God really approve? Children suffered and we turned our backs. Corporations profited on misery. Will this be our legacy?
There is still a chance. I challenge the world’s leaders to halt the arms race and use our resources to build a better world. When future students read about us, let them remember us for people who tried to make a different, not as arrogant and greedy. Let them know us as compassionate and kind, not as cruel and inhumane. The choice is ours to find a better way.
PS I recently found this among a bunch of old files.