Remarks delivered at the Tax Day Rally, April 17, 2019
Hey all, my name is Nick and I’m with the Sunrise Movement here in Boston. For those of you who don’t know, the Sunrise Movement is an army of young people fighting for climate justice and the creation of millions of good jobs in the process. Sunrise aims at changing the conversation surrounding climate change: so, instead of despairing at the doom and gloom of the existential crisis, we discuss solutions that already exist and how we can best work towards those.
I’m so glad you all came out here today to make your voices heard regarding such an important issue: tax policy. Our money, and how the government uses it, is extremely important when considering what a functioning democracy looks like. I wanted to talk about money a bit more today because it’s a central issue to both of our causes.
Whenever we talk about climate change, or potential solutions to address it, what typically comes up as a response to those solutions? [How do we pay for it?] Exactly – “how do we pay for it?” This question comes up time and again whenever we consider big solutions to equally big issues. People are concerned – rightfully so – with what their money is going towards, and if they are going to have to pay more. However, I can’t help but find this question a bit disingenuous. When people are concerned with where their tax money is going, or to what ends it may be spent, do they really know what it’s being spent on today?
That’s where you all come in. I happened to take a look at the second most costly government budget item in the 2019 budget because I wasn’t as up-to-date on the numbers. Of course, we here all know that the military budget, which is indeed the second most costly budget item, is an astronomical amount. The actual projected number, however, is a staggering $989 billion. Almost a trillion dollars spent on the military. That number has also more than doubled in the past 15 years, and in 2015, the U.S. military budget accounted for 37% of all military spending globally. We spend a lot of money on our military.
This begs the question: how have we been sold on this enormous expense? Surely this is a use of our taxes that should concern us. The government consistently justifies this extraordinary amount of money by saying that our paying it makes us safer. The military keeps us all safe. Safe from what? Terror. China. Russia. Communism. Our consent is consistently manufactured by the fear-mongering of media and administrations so that we feel afraid for our lives – enough to spend a trillion tax dollars to soothe the fear.
My big question is: what could be more of a threat to our safety than the threat of climate change-driven extinction? Our species is facing the most existential crisis it has ever faced, and if we do nothing to mitigate it, society as we know it will surely collapse. The safety of organized life is being threatened. How, then, can we not spend at least a trillion dollars trying to face the largest threat to our safety that has ever occurred? The politics surrounding our perception of our own safety is laughable, and must be corrected.
Of course, I don’t want to just spell doom and gloom. Sunrise believes that the best and only viable solution to this crisis, expensive or not, is the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal aims to face the climate crisis head on, and simultaneously bolster the most vulnerable, and historically left behind communities at the same time. What better use of our tax dollars could we ask for? Using our hard-earned money to both save our species and help those who have been ignored, or repressed, for so long seems like a dream come true. That is how tax and monetary policy should be. Instead of destabilizing the world abroad, why not stabilize the world we live in every day?
We must fight for a just future if we are to hope to have one at all. When asked the question about cost, we must be unafraid in calling out the hypocrisy that lies at the core of the large-cost items we already pay for as a society. When the system is fundamentally broken, as ours is, we have to work to fix it. You are all already doing that work. Let’s all keep up the fight until we live in a world that works for all of us. If we don’t, we may not have a world to live in at all.