Remarks delivered by Merri Ansara at Tax Day protest, Greenfield, April 15.
Hi, my name is Merri Ansara. I am here representing Massachusetts Peace Action, co sponsor of this event. I also am a member of W.M. Code Pink and the Raging Grannies. Thank you to Traprock for organizing this event. I want to thank Aaron Faibel and Betsy Corner for their words, Tom Neilson and Lynn Waldron for their songs, and look forward later in the program to hearing Eric Wasileski speak and Annie Hassett sing. And of course, I myself will be singing with the Raging Grannies.
In the late 1970s, as I recall, in the Peace Movement in Cambridge and in the predecessor to Mass Peace Action, we were demanding that the outrageous cost of even the tiniest items like screws for the B1 Bomber be used instead for important items like our schools. The Defense budget then was a little over $92 billion dollars. In 2023 dollars that would be about $514 billion dollars.
In 2023 the total budget, including work on nuclear weapons at the Department of Energy is $886 billion. From 2017 to 2021 the United States provided weapons to over 100 nations, and in 2020 alone, American companies made $111 billion from foreign military sales.
The U.S. Military controls 46.53% of our national budget, education gets 9.8%, health 9.12%, veterans’ benefits 6.48% – that is taking care of those poor souls caught up in US military fighting around the globe – and everything else around 27% of the budget.
What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong with us? Why are we involved in 70 armed conflicts around the globe when our roads and bridges are crumbling, many of our schools are crumbling, classrooms crowded and teachers underpaid, 34 million people, including 9 million children, are food insecure, the costs of health care are astronomical while conditions so bad that practitioners are fleeing the profession, and we face the largest housing crisis in at least the past century? Where are our priorities?
According to the National Priorities Project, with that same amount of money, more than 58 million adults and children could receive health care, 2 billion doses of Covid vaccines could be administered, almost 2 ½ million children could have headstart classes, more than 600 thousand clean energy jobs could be created, over 1 million elementary school teachers could be hired, and 12 ½ million low income housing units could be created.
Where are the priorities for our tax dollars? Why are we sending $54 billion in weapons to Ukraine when at the same time we are saying that our Social Security and Medicare funds are in peril? $38 billion to Israel when the Israeli army is massacring Palestinian civilians? A whopping $604 million to Saudi Arabia for the massacre of Yemenis, never mind their repression of women at home among other atrocities.
Why are our tax dollars subsidizing the arms industry including L3Harris, right here in Northampton, and subsidizing arms research at the University of Massachusetts when we could be subsidizing those same weapons companies to pivot to green jobs, the University to research solutions to environmental crises, carrying forward the Green New Deal?
Well, we should. Everyone here knows we should. On Tuesday, we will all finish sending our federal tax dollars to the U.S. government without any say over how these dollars will be spent.
If in 1976 we were demanding accountability from the U.S. military for spending money on $500 hammers and $100 screws, in 2023 we should be demanding not just accountability from the U.S. government, we should be demanding change. Out here in Western Massachusetts our Congressional Representatives are Jim McGovern and Richard Neal; our senators are Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren. We must demand from them that our tax dollars are spent on healthcare, nurses, vaccines, housing, food for children, housing for individuals and families, roads and bridges, a secure old age for our seniors, green jobs and energy, and NOT on massacres around the globe, not for the death and injury of young men and women in the U.S. military, not on support for L3Harris, Raytheon, and weapons research at the University of Massachusetts.
Stand with me and shout with me: Tax dollars for Peace, No Money for War. Tax dollars for Peace, No Money for War. Tax dollars for Peace, No Money for War.