Obama's "Spending Freeze" (except the military budget of course) and dialogue in Afghanistan

 In Afghanistan, Blogroll, military, Peace Action

Two related issues were in the news today, the President’s call for a spending freeze on federal programs, except for the national security state of course, and senior UN envoy in Afghanistan Kai Eide’s call for negotiations with the Taliban.

On the former, Jo Comerford of the National Priorities Project http://nationalpriorities.org said today: “President Obama’s plan to freeze ‘non-security’ discretionary spending could spell disaster for a broad range of federal
programs. … The proposed ‘freeze’ is actually a cut. The proposal caps non-security spending at $447 billion for each of the next three fiscal years. During that time, inflation will erode the purchasing power of that total, requiring additional cuts in services in each successive year. While meaningless in reducing the deficit, these cuts could be
devastating to non-security discretionary programs such as nutrition, education, energy and transportation. These types of programs account for only 17 percent of total federal spending, yet they will absorb all of the proposed cuts. … Military spending, which in the current fiscal year represents roughly 55 percent of discretionary spending, will be
spared the budget knife. And all indications are that military spending will go up next year. In fact, based on the Office of Management and Budget’s projections as part of the FY 2010 budget request released last year, we will spend an additional $522 billion on the military over the next decade.”

We’ve seen this movie before – Republicans run up the deficit through huge increases in military spending and tax cuts for corporations, the rich and middle class. Then the Democrats come in and voila, there are huge deficits to reduce, and they want to be responsible, not “tax and spend liberals”, so social programs “have to be cut” while the war machine devours more and more of our federal budget.

Peace Action West has a good action alert on this issue, encouraging support for freezing military spending instead, on the website change.org  at http://www.change.org/ideas/view/cut_wasteful_war_spending_to_fund_human_needs_like_health_care_education_and_jobs   , and of course we will need to fight this budget battle in Congress.

On Afghanistan, Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy posted this message  today:

UN: Time for Direct Talks with Afghan Taliban Leaders

The top United Nations official for Afghanistan has called for direct
talks with senior Taliban leaders. Is anyone in Washington listening?

The New York Times reported Sunday that Kai Eide, the United Nations
special representative for Afghanistan, “called on Afghan officials to
seek the removal of at least some senior Taliban leaders from the
United Nations’ list of terrorists, as a first step toward opening
direct negotiations with the insurgent group.”

Eide also called on the U.S. to speed its review of the roughly 750
detainees in its military prisons in Afghanistan – another principal
grievance of Taliban leaders.

Eide said he hoped that the two steps would open the way for
face-to-face talks between Afghan officials and Taliban leaders.

“If you want relevant results, then you have to talk to the relevant
person in authority,” Mr. Eide said. “I think the time has come to do

Amen; talk talk talk is better than war war war.

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