Saturday, February 02, 2008

A Question of Priorities

Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1967

Reading over Bush's latest budget proposal, I was reminded of the historic speech the Reverend gave at Riverside Church on the Vietnam war. King understood only too well that a nation that squandered its treasure on pursuit of empire could never afford to live up to its ideals of equal opportunity. And so he fought a battle on three fronts: one for civil rights, one for economic justice and another for peace.

Bush's latest budget differs little from his previous ones. The shell game over funding for this administration's overall defense programs continues, so a true accounting is probably not possible, but defense spending is up.
The Bush budget to be submitted Monday would cut the budget for the Health and Human Services Department by $2 billion, or 3 percent. By contrast, the Pentagon would get a $35 billion increase to $515 billion for core programs, with war costs additional [emphasis added.]
When conservatives say "starve the beast," they are talking about "entitlements" like healthcare for children, not toys for the military.

In terms of fiscal priorities, this administration has been very consistent, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that Bush is proposing cuts for programs that help keep the poor and nearly poor afloat just at a time when a looming recession predicts those programs would be most needed.

Democrats can take no solace in the fact that this version of the budget won't see the light of day, because regardless of how strenuously they fight to restore targeted cuts for domestic programs, their options are limited. Seven years of uncontrolled spending on a needless war coupled with tax cuts for the wealthy have left our country facing bankruptcy.

Dr. King's haunting and prophetic words ring as true about our current military endeavors as they did about Vietnam. It's time to choose: Do we continue on the road to endless war and occupation or do we begin to rebuild our own country? Here's a primer on the crisis we face, what it will mean to future generations and what we need to do to fix it.

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