by Jonathan King
Hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents are struggling just to get by. Patients are unable to pay their medical bills. Tenants are worried about eviction and future housing. Parents are still concerned about Covid-19 safety in dilapidated school buildings. T riders are waiting for trains that fail to arrive, and worrying about their safety. The healthcare crisis is about to intensify as 15 million Americans lose Medicaid coverage that was provided during the pandemic.
We in the peace movement know all these difficulties are exacerbated by the outrageous military budget. Unfortunately, this fact is not well known outside our circles. MAPA launched the “Fund Healthcare Not Warfare” campaign in the spring of 2020 as an explicit response to the pandemic crisis, and identified the enormous military budget as a significant drain on national resources that should have been available to deal with this medical emergency. The campaign reached out and established relationships with key constituencies such as the Mass. Nurses Association and the public health workers in the Mass. Public Health Association. We are working productively with them in support of state legislation focused on healthcare, in exchange for their support for cutting the military budget.
Mass Peace Action has decided to broaden this campaign to include other crucial sectors of the American economy that are starved by the $850 billion military budget. The campaign aims: a) to increase awareness—among specific organizations and constituencies—of how Pentagon spending takes resources away from meeting their needs and b) to work with them in a coordinated effort to change budget priorities and spending.
The 2023 Peace Economy campaign will continue to develop relationships with public health constituencies, and also expand the effort to organized sectors of public education and housing, both affected by excessive Pentagon spending. The Campaign will also support the Women’s Jail moratorium and the Warheads to Windmill initiative.
- Build on the success of the Fund Healthcare not Warfare (FHCNW) Campaign:
The FHCNW Working group (Catherine DeLorey, Sandy Eaton, Bonnie Gorman, Cate Henning, Jonathan King, Susan Mirsky, Alan Meyers, Beth Sommers) plans to deepen our relationship with the Mass. Nurses Assn. and Mass. Public Health Assn. by supporting their bills in the State Legislature, while asking for their support for MAPA’s bills.
We will continue the program of webinars exploring Women’s Health Justice and Youth Mental Health, and we’ll revisit Pandemic Preparedness and Vaccine Access.
On Sunday June 11, the FHNWF Working group will host the 2nd Annual Fund Healthcare Not Warfare Forum, bringing together representatives of key organizational allies (MNA, MPHA, MassCARE, Physicians for a National Health Plan, Veterans for Peace, and others).
On the national level we will work with National Nurses United and with the American Public Health Association, with the goal of getting their endorsement of the Lee/Pocan People over Pentagon Congressional bill to cut $100 billion from the Pentagon budget.
We also hope to work with Rep. Ayanna Pressley to develop a federal Fund Healthcare Not Warfare Act, focused on the (non-Medicare, non-Medicaid) programs and agencies that are funded through the Congressional discretionary budget. These include Centers for Disease Control, NIH vaccine initiatives, many women’s and children’s and minority health programs, as well as many food and nutrition programs.
We will present programs at the national meeting of the American Public Health Association in Atlanta (Nov. 2023) on the “Congressional Budget – People over Pentagon” and on “Women’s Health Justice.”
We will develop an ongoing relationship with SEUI1199 and SEIU509: Though we have connections with individual members, we need to develop a formal relationship with the unions through their elected officers.
The transition from the FHCNW Working Group to a broader Peace Economy Working Group will require recruiting members connected to public education and housing struggles. That initiative will open paths to the expanded outreach described below:
- Minds Not Missiles: Develop support for Peace Economy initiatives within the organized sector of Public Education, in particular the Mass. Teachers Assn and the American Federation of Teachers MA.
The first step in this outreach campaign will be to organize Zoom Forum(s) on “Public Education for Democracy and Peace,” in which the leaders of the MTA and AFTMA are invited to speak to MAPA’s network.
We hope to get support within MAPA to endorse the teachers’ four priority bills In the State Legislature, while requesting their support for some of our MAPA bills.
This outreach will require developing explicit “Invest in Minds not Missiles” and “Buy Books not Bombs” literature, for distribution at the annual MTA and AFTMA Assemblies.
- Keep connections between militarism and racism visible by actively supporting Women’s Jail Moratorium campaign.
MAPA was an initial supporter of the Women’s Jail Moratorium. Building more jails represents militarization of the social safety net – the funds should be used for prevention and rehabilitation and support. We will continue with webinars, and support for their State Legislation and their rallies.
We will also continue to support the Poor Peoples Campaign, through communication of their campaigns to MAPA members, and direct participation.
If enough people can be recruited, Peace Economy will proceed to reach out to the Housing/Homeless sector. The biggest cuts in civilian programs used to increase Pentagon budgets under Reagan were in federal housing programs. These cuts need to be reversed.
- Build Housing Not Bombs: Reconnect with Housing groups (HUD Tenants; La Vida Urbana; Housing = Health, etc) attempting to deal with the affordable housing crises in Mass.
Organize a forum with speakers from these groups on the theme of “Build Housing Not Bombs.”
Develop a pamphlet for distribution at housing rallies, showing the trade-offs from “Building Homes not Bombs. (These handouts can use, as a template, the older but effective Build Housing Not Bombs pamphlets developed for the Jobs with Peace campaign).
- Support Warheads to Windmills campaign:
The Peace Economy effort will engage with groups, such as public transit advocates and transportation unions, concerned with the jobs aspect of such programs. Most public transit advocates recognize that shifting from private cars to public transit will reduce fossil emissions. Less well known is that the increase in Pentagon spending over the past two decades has been one of the factors limiting needed investment in trains, buses and ferries.
If you are interested in working on any aspect of this campaign, please contact Jonathan King at: email@example.com. We welcome your participation!
—Jonathan King is co-chair of MAPA’s Board of Directors.