Philadelphia Town Meeting For Jobs Not Wars is a Rousing Success
By John Grant
Over 100 people attended the eight-hour Town Meeting For Jobs Not Wars on Saturday, October 30th from 9AM to 3PM in an auditorium at Philadelphia Community College. On the same day, Jon Stewart had a major rally in Washington D.C. and President Obama made an appearance at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Organizers from the Coalition For Jobs Not Wars, the group that sponsored the town meeting, declared it a rousing success and a propitious beginning for the newly created coalition. So far, the coalition is made up of 13 Philadelphia community and activist groups. The list is expected to grow in the coming weeks and months. A follow-up meeting will be scheduled soon to evaluate the meeting and plan for the future.
The Town Meeting featured twelve speakers divided into morning and afternoon panels. US Congressman Chaka Fattah was one of the speakers. The speakers focused on the need to finance job programs, alternative energy development and other domestic needs.
They also addressed the politically tricky issue of cutting the U.S. Pentagon budget, which a strip-graphic of dollar bills behind the speakers made clear is a whopping 59% of the federal budget. As one panelist pointed out, the U.S. federal budget tends to grow every year as the percentage of it going to the Pentagon also grows. Several speakers discussed the movement known as the 25% Solution, a national effort to cut back the defense budget by 25%. Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul (whose son Rand is the new libertarian Tea Party Senator from Tennessee) have taken up this call in the House Of Representatives. One of the Coalition's goals will be to get local congress members to join in the 25% Solution.
It is noteworthy that in his first pronouncement, the new Republican Speaker Of The House John Boehner called for cuts in the federal budget. Not unexpectedly, he -- and virtually everyone else in government and the mainstream media -- never mentions the whopping Pentagon budget. It's as if 59% of the citizen-tax-based federal budget did not even exist. Boehner talked about the various "huge" domestic budget areas that needed to be cut. If these are "huge," what would be a good adjective for the Pentagon budget? In comparison to the vastly smaller domestic budget areas, even "humongous" doesn't do it justice. Imperial? Oops! I forgot, we aren't supposed to use that term, the brand name for a margarine.
The Coalition For Jobs Not Wars has been created to make it clear the 59% Pentagon budget does exist and at least 25% of it can be cut and the funds shifted to things like job creation, job training programs, education improvements, infrastructure maintenance and repair and a host of other domestic issues that have been neglected for too long. A 25% cut will not diminish US security. We can't ignore the need to compete with nations like China, India and Brazil as they use their resources internally to bolster rising middle classes into major consumer engines. While they invest domestically, we prioritize and spend our resources to maintain over 700 military bases around the world, to keep enough nuclear weapons to turn the Earth into a cinder many times over and to develop more and more lethal weapons to address fears of losing our dominance in the world. It is a tragic race to disaster. We need saner priorities.
In the coming months, you will be hearing more from the Coalition For Jobs Not Wars. We hope more organizations will join the coalition. Although they were contacted with Press Releases and Flyers, no mainstream media covered the provocative and informative town meeting. The reason is simple: Both major parties have chosen not to raise our two on-going wars and the Pentagon budget as an issue between them. This follows the well-known media rule -- of the order of "if it bleeds it leads" -- that unless the two major political parties in America take up an issue as a "pissing contest" between them it will not be covered. However, camera operators from the Media Mobilizing Project did videotape the Town Meeting For Jobs Not Wars and portions of it will be shown on PhillyCAM -- the Philadelphia Community Access Media.
This is an uphill battle right now, but it's a strategy with an eye for the long haul. We hope it catches on and Philadelphia area citizens and groups join in the effort -- as they continue to pursue their own, diverse activist issues.
[John Grant is a member of Veterans For Peace and the Philadelphia Area Coalition For Jobs Not Wars]