Fund Public Health not Foreign Wars
Jonathan King and Rosemary Kean
The coronavirus outbreak and the nation’s lack of preparedness require a major change in national policy, shifting investment of our tax dollars into public health, and away from prosecuting endless wars abroad. The large Emergency Stimulus Package Congress voted March 27 to cope with the crisis was a step in the right direction in cushioning the economic blows of the coronavirus outbreak. The direct response to containing the outbreak certainly requires expanding existing healthcare facilities and building new ones; increasing healthcare staffing; ensuring health care providers have an abundant supply of masks, gloves, and gowns to safeguard their health; raising the wages of frontline healthcare workers; and ramping up testing at no cost to those tested. Whether the Congressional appropriation will be adequate is unclear
For example, virus test improvement, vaccine and therapy developments are not funded by Medicare, Medicaid, other health insurance or hospitals. They depend on the efforts funded through the budgets of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), Biological Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA) and related basic and biomedical science agencies. The $1 billion directed to the NIH, $4.5 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and $27 billion to BARDA appear as generous sums given the previous almost austerity budgets for these agencies. But these investments pale when compared with this year’s $738 billion currently being spent on foreign wars, 800 military bases around the world, and a dangerous new nuclear arms race. The federal budget has been a business plan for the military/industrial complex, not a plan to protect the health and welfare of the citizenry. Now is the time to switch budget priorities.
A Reverse Manhattan Project
Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and Peter L. Slavin, president of Massachusetts General Hospital, have called for a Manhattan Project level response to the coronavirus pandemic. We commend them for their leadership. We would make one change in that formulation: We need a Reverse Manhattan Project. During World War II, as the US engagement in fighting fascism in Europe and the Pacific deepened, hundreds of billions of dollars were diverted from civilian projects to concentrate on building the first atom bombs. Today, we need to divert hundreds of billions from our war budget, into the healthcare and biomedical research needs noted above, and even more into the economic cushions needed to protect our people.
Protect the Most Vulnerable
The Poor Peoples Campaign, Move ON, Our Revolution, National Nurses United, and other organizations have emphasized the need to protect all those at risk, but first and foremost are the 140,000,000 already below or near the poverty line. Among their calls are:
- Guaranteed paid sick leave for all;
- No foreclosures or evictions;
- Debt forgiveness not only for student but for medical debts;
- National moratorium on water and utility shutoff
- Prevent profiteering.
Establish Universal Health Care
If ever there was a time when the desperate need for universal health care in this country became apparent, that time is now. We need for every person to be covered, including the most vulnerable among us – those who are elderly or homeless or incarcerated or low-income or suffering from chronic illnesses and underlying conditions. We are all in this together. We need hospitals that are properly staffed and equipped, not reeling from years of austerity. We need enough doctors and nurses to actually take care of the ill in our society. We need simplified regulations and a single payer system, so doctors do not become exhausted and cynical and unable to spend enough time with their patients because they are forced to spend endless hours filling out complex paperwork and arguing with insurance companies who care only about their profits. We need Medicare for All. Initial funding should come from cutting the bloated and dangerous military budget. Congressional adoption of Senator Markey’s Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditure (SANE) Act would make available $75 billon.
Among the most tragic and inhumane aspects of current US foreign policy are the sanctions which cripple the ability of vulnerable countries to save patients’ lives. These sanctions threaten all of us by contributing to the global spread of the coronavirus. Congress needs to act immediately to end sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and Cuba so that all countries can import the medicines, equipment, and food they need to prevent unnecessary loss of lives.
--Jonathan King and Rosemary Kean are Co-Chairs of Massachusetts Peace Action. Jonathan is professor of molecular biology at MIT. Rosemary is a retired RN, and Public Health Nurse
A Moral Budget for Massachusetts
September 27, 2019
MIT, Room 3-133
77 Mass Ave.
Cambridge MA 02139
Free and open to the Public but seating is limited. Please Pre-register to attend.
2: 05 pm: Welcome: Patricia Weinmann (MIT Radius)
2:10 pm: The Poor Peoples Campaign’s Moral Budget for the Nation- Shailly Gupta Barnes (National PPC & Kairos Center)
2:20 PM Panel 1: Developing a Moral Budget for Massachusetts
Chair: Savina Martin (Mass Poor Peoples Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival)
- Increasing the Mass State Budget – State Representative Mike Connolly
- The Congressional Progresive Caucus People’s Budget in Mass – Andrea Burns (Our Revolution)
- Producing a Moral Budget for Massachusetts- Jonathan King (Mass Peace Action)
3:00 pm Panel 2: Housing, Transit, Infrastructure and Energy.
Chair: Caesar McDowell (MIT Urban Studies)
- Affordable Housing – Lee Farris(Cambridge Residents Alliance)
- Public Transit – State Rep Denise Provost (Somerville)
- Sustainable energy – Quinton Zondervan (Cambridge City Councilor)
3:45 pm Coffee Break
4:00 pm Panel 3: Education and health
Chair: Ruth Rodriguez Fay (Save Our Schools, Worcester)
- Child care and Pre-K Education – Dr. Denisha Jones (Defending the Early Years)
- K-12 Education – Lisa Guisbond (Citizens for Public Schools)
- Higher Education: Fund Our Future – Merrie Najimy (Mass Teachers Assn. President)
- Basic and Biomedical Research – Prof. Ishara Mills-Henry (Framingham State)
- Public Health Needs – John Ratliff (Mass Senior Action)
4:45 pm Panel 4: Cutting the Pentagon Budget
Chair: Cole Harrison (Mass Peace Action)
- Investing in Veteran’s needs – Dan Luker (Veterans for Peace)
- Toward a Sustainable Defense budget - Lindsay Koshgarian (Institute for Policy Studies)
- Cutting Raytheon Weapons for Saudi Arabia - Paul Shannon (AFSC)
- Cancelling New Nuclear Weapons – Dr. Kea Van der Ziel (Greater Boston PSR)
5:30: Next steps
- Methodology for a state Moral Budget – Jelena Mitić Elliott (Institute for People’s Engagement) and Lindsay Koshgarian (IPC)
- Constitution of Publications Committee -Panelists
5:45: Benediction - Rev. Leslie Sterling (St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church)
(All panels – 6-8 minute talks, then general discussion)
Program committee: Jonathan King, Savina Martin, Jelena Mitić Elliott, Brian Garvey, Patricia Weinmann.
Co-Sponsors: Mass Poor Peoples Campaign; MIT Radius; Institute for People’s Engagement; Mass Peace Action.
Additional support from the Amy S. Rugel Foundation.
Social and Economic Costs of Endless Wars
Friday, April 26, 2 – 5:30 pm
MIT 34-101, 50 Vassar Street, Cambridge
1:30 pm: On site Registration
2:00 pm: Welcome: The Task We Face -Jonathan King (MIT, MAPA)
2:15 pm: Opening Panel:
Chair: Prof. Sally Haslangar (MIT)
- The Costs of War – Prof. Neta Crawford (Boston University)
- The Bloated Pentagon Budget - William Hartung (Center for International Policy)
- Saudi Military Aggression in Yemen - Michael Page (Human Rights Watch)
- U.S. Interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq – Major Danny Sjursen (U.S. Army -retired)
3:00 pm: Emerging Responses:
Chair Cole Harrison (Mass Peace Action)
- Build Bridges not Bombs; Bringing Nuclear Disarmament into the State Legislature – [Rep Nika Elugardo Mass State Legislature]
- Don’t Bank on the Bomb – Divesting from Nuclear Weapons Manufacture - Rep. Mike Connolly (Mass State Legislature)
- Bringing the Moral Revival to Massachusetts- Savina Martin (Poor Peoples Campaign)
- The Intensifying Struggle for Affordable Housing – Chuck Collins (Institute for Policy Studies)
- Massachusetts Battles to Protect and Promote Public Education - Andrew King (UMass Boston).
4:00 – Workshops:
- A) Organizing on Campuses: Facilitator, Brian Garvey, MAPA; Zac Bears (PHENOM); Alice Pote (MIT/anti-Saudi Coalition); Husayn Karimi (MIT Students Against War); Paul Shannon (AFSC).
- B) Nuclear Disarmament Initiatives: Facilitator, Joseph Gerson and Michelle Cunha; Jerrold Ross (MAPA); Prof. Aron Bernstein (MIT).
- C) Moral and People’s Budget: Connecting battles for Economic Justice with Reducing Pentagon Spending: Facilitator, Jared Hicks (Our Revolution); Andrea Burns (MAPA); Andrew King (UMass Boston); John Ratliff (Mass Senior Action); William Hartung (Institute for International Policy).
- D) The Continuing Links between Militarism and Racism: Facilitator, Rosemary Kean (MAPA); Savina Martin (Poor People’s Campaign); Caesar Mc Dowell (MIT).
5:00: Report back from Workshops
Co-sponsored by MIT Radius (of the Technology and Culture Forum), Massachusetts Peace Action, the MIT-Saudi Arabia Divest Coalition, MIT Students Against War, AFSC, the Institute for People’s Engagement, the Poor People’s Campaign, and the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security.
Increasing Federal and State Investment in Public Higher Education -
Invest in Minds not Missiles.
Thursday Oct. 4, 4 - 6 pm, Small Science Auditorium, UMass Boston
Public education is under siege across the country: From budget cuts by Republican-controlled state legislatures and administrations; from charter school, voucher and other privatization campaigns led by Hedge Fund managers and their allies; most recently from the Supreme Court Janus decision undermining pubic sector unions. These factors also weaken public higher education, which in addition have to fight off the campaigns of the Koch Brothers and their allies to limit progressive education and speech on campuses.
Though almost all of our institutions of higher education are under pressure, one of the most critical and most vulnerable institutions of higher education in Massachusetts is the University of Massachusetts at Boston, originally chartered with the mission of ensuring quality higher education for disadvantaged urban residents. The recent Court rejection of the millionaire’s tax exacerbates the situation. Countering the efforts to shrink access to higher education, the Bernie Sanders campaign, Our Revolution and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have called for four years of tuition free public higher education for all qualified high school graduates. These proposals finance the program through the federal budget by reversing the Republican tax cuts, and by cutting the bloated Pentagon Budget.
Welcome: Representative of the UMass Administration:
Panel 1: The Value of UMass Boston to the Boston-area Community:
Chair: Prof. Jane Regan (BU College of Communication, Dept. of Journalism)
- The Role of UMass in Providing Urban Access to Higher Education: Prof Marlene Kim, Dept. of Economics, UMass Boston.
- Public Research for Public Good: Prof. Randy Albelda, Dept. of Economics, UMass Boston.
- Obtaining a College Degree while Raising a Family: Ms. Jelena Mitic-Elliott, Undergraduate, UMass Boston.
- Graduate Programs as a Key Public Service Resource: Andrew King, Graduate Student, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Affairs, UMass Boston.
- Responding to our Immigrant Communities: Jean Lesly Rene, Haitian Creole and Culture Institute, UMass Boston
Panel 2: Financing Public Higher Education
Chair – State Rep. Mike Connolly (26th Middlesex)
-Contributions from State, Federal and Private Sources: Josh Hoxie, Institute for Policy Studies
- Pressing the State Legislature to Increase its Education Budget: State Rep Natalie Higgins, 4th Worcester District (former leader of PHENOM Public Higher Education Network of Mass).
- The Continuing Struggle for Inclusion: Prof. Tony Van Der Meer, Africana Studies, UMass Boston.
- Efforts of the Mass Teachers Assn, American Federation of Teachers Ma, and other Unions to Support Higher Education: Barbara Madeloni, Past President, Mass Teachers Assn.
- Four Years of Tuition Free Public Higher Education – The Peoples Budget: Prof. Jonathan King, Our Revolution National Campus Faculty and Staff Committee, and Mass Peace Action.
- Make our Tax Dollars Available for Public Education, Veterans Affairs, and other Essential Needs by Cutting the Inflated Pentagon Budget: Senior Lecturer Paul Atwood, American History, UMass Boston Honors College and Veterans for Peace.
Closing Remarks: Where Do We Go From Here? Zac Bears, PHENOM; Anetta Argyres, Professional Staff Union, SaveUMB; Juan Blanco PHENOM-UMB.
Program Committee: Paul Atwood, Marcus Breen, State Rep. Mike Connolly, Michael Gilbreath, Jonathan King (Co-Chair), Jelena Mitic-Elliott, Jane Regan (Co-Chair).
[Co-Sponsors: American Friends Service Committee, Institute for People’s Engagement; Mass Peace Action; national Our Revolution; Our Revolution Somerville; People’s Budget Campaign, PHENOM, SaveUMB, SEIU Local 888, UMB Professional Staff Union: Veteran’s for Peace].
Photo Caption: Students attending the Invest in Minds not Missiles came from Brown U. Columbia U., CUNY, Fordham Lincoln Center, Fordham Rose Hill, Hunter College, Manhattan College, Marymount College, MIT, Pace, Princeton U., Rutgers U. , UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, and UMass Lowell). Also shown in the photo are session Chair Jim Anderson from Peace Action New York State and Conference Chair Jonathan King from MIT and Mass Peace Action. Photo by Mutsuko Ohnishi.
Students from campuses across the Northeast gathered at MIT this spring to share their experiences in challenging the US government’s aggressive foreign policy, growing nuclear arsenal, and neglect of pressing domestic needs. They were in town to lend their voices to the conference “Invest in Minds, Not Missiles: Reducing the Threat of Nuclear War” on April 7 and 8. This meeting, responding to the continuing risk of nuclear war or accident, continued the long tradition of advocacy for nuclear disarmament through the efforts of former MIT faculty including Vicki Weisskopf, Philip Morrison, Herman Feshbach, Randall Forsberg, Bernard Feld, Henry Kendall, Kosta Tsipis, George Rathjens and Aron Bernstein. Prof. Bernstein was a lead-off speaker.
Caption: Prof. Aron Bernstein. Photo by Mutsuko Ohnishi
The students—who represented a spectrum of ages and academic levels, ranging from high school students and undergrads to recent alums, grad students, and postdocs—traveled to Cambridge from more than fifteen campuses in New England, New York and New Jersey to attend. Grants from the Ploughshares Fund and the Amy Rugel Foundation were vital in supporting the travel and lodging expenses of out-of-town students, as well as support from MIT’s Technology and Culture Radius program, the Institute for People's Engagement, and Mass. Peace Action.
The focus on campus organizing had emerged at the end of the 2017 MIT anti-nuclear conference, where participants realized the need to actively recruit young people and support their campus organizing efforts. Students have a leading role to play in the peace movement, which in recent times has been represented mostly by older activists and experts. Organizers of this year’s conference heeded the call.
Nuclear Dangers Reviewed at Saturday Plenaries
Analysis of the nuclear weapons dangers and tense international situations were provided by Aron Bernstein (MIT), Elaine Scarry (Harvard University), Joseph Gerson (American Friends Service Committee), Jim Anderson (Peace Action of New York State), Hon. John Tierney (Council for a Livable World), Charles Knight (Commonwealth Institute), Chuck Johnson (International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War), Gary Goldstein (Tufts University), Lisbeth Gronlund (Union of Concerned Scientists) and Mike VanElzakker (Mass Peace Action). Prof. Scarry’s call for Congress to assert their Constitutional Article I authority to declare war, and pull back the President’s thumb from the nuclear launch button was shared by all.
Caption: Prof. Elaine Scarry. Photo by Mutsuko Ohnishi
Cogent analyses of the economic pressures from the weapons industry were provided by William Hartung (Center for International Policy), Stephanie Scammel (Costs of War Project, Brown University), and Richard Krushnic (Institute for People’s Engagement). The proposed $1.2 trillion dollar nuclear weapon triad upgrades were concerned by all. Hartung described how these dollars are recycled through political donations to influence Congressional and Pentagon appropriations and policies.
Caption: Wiliam Hartung. Photo by Mutsuko Ohnishi
Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, Kristina Romines of WAND, Jonathan King of Peace Action, Paul Johnson of the Poor People’s Campaign, Andrea Miller of People Demanding Action, and Paul Shannon of the People’s Budget all described campaigns underway to broaden and expand the base of people concerned about the nuclear danger and the human burdens and economic cost of endless wars. Calling for pension funds, college endowments and other funds to divest from investing in companies that manufacture or maintain nuclear weapons educates the public that nuclear weapons are a domestic business as well as a component of foreign policy.
In the Campus Organizing panel Kate Alexander described the New York approach of contacting political active campus faculty members, and asking for suggestions for students to contact. Caitlin Forbes described MAPA’s approach of offering internships with MAPA, which included forming campus-based Peace Action clubs. Luisa Kenausis, a former MIT undergrad mentored by Prof. Aron Bernstein, described how she and other students contacted Physics Dept. faculty members, asking them to include in their lectures material on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Emma Budd and Eric Stolar of Fordham University described forming a “Humanitarian Student Union,” which organized events addressing pressing issues such as social justice and housing not covered in classes.
Caption: Caitlin Forbes, Luisa Kenausis, Emma Budd, Eric Stolard, Kate Alexander, Jim Anderson. Photo by Aaron King.
Students Share Organizing Strategies at Sunday Roundtable
While the Saturday conference consisted of a daylong series of plenaries and workshops analyzing the current war danger, Sunday morning was devoted to a round-table discussion of campus organizing, in which students shared their varied experiences and tactics. Many described a low level of concern among their student peers about nuclear issues; however, they said addressing related issues such as the suffering of refugees, the militarization of police forces, and the defunding of human service programs, had allowed them to reach more students. Their programs included holding forums with guest speakers, showing films, and collecting signatures on petitions.
Luisa Kenausis, a former MIT undergrad mentored by Aron Bernstein, described how she and other students contacted Physics Dept. faculty members, asking them to include in their lectures material on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, including the unimaginable human suffering. Now Luisa and Prof. Aron Bernstein, are developing a website with model curriculum modules, to distribute broadly.
Hainan Zhang of Rutgers described his participation in research under Prof. Alan Robock on “nuclear winter,” the inevitable result of a general nuclear war, or even a limited nuclear exchange such as one between India and Pakistan: the smoke and soot from the firestorms would be lofted into the stratosphere, would block out the sun for a decade or more, lowering temperatures to the level of the last Ice Age, and killing harvests around the globe, leading to near universal starvation. He promised to share his material with other campus groups.
Andrew King, from UMass Boston, described the importance of student peace activists joining in the Poor People’s Campaign. He said one of the six weeks of PPC non-violent civil disobedience, starting in Massachusetts the day after Mother’s Day, was devoted to protesting the war economy, which is draining resources from essential social programs. He noted this issue is especially relevant for peace and justice groups on many campuses.
Emma Budd and Eric Stolar of Fordham University addressed the issue of student groups obtaining resources from their universities. They described how their organization, “Humanitarian Student Union,” was able to hold educational talks and secure resources from an academic department interested in international affairs. Several groups mentioned receiving support and resources from their campus ministries. Sebastien Phillipe reported success at Princeton University in securing financial support from academic departments for a campus-wide day of action, which covered a range of issues including climate change, immigration, and restrictions on free speech.
Caption: Emma Budd and Eric Stolar
Participants agreed to form a Northeast Campus Peace and Justice Organizing Network to provide mutual assistance and support, and to help seed peace and justice clubs on other campuses. This work will build on the campus organizing efforts of Peace Action of New York State and of Massachusetts Peace Action. The next step may be organizing a similar forum in the New York / New Jersey area.
The conference was co-sponsored by MIT Radius; American Friends Service Committee; Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security; Council for a Livable World; Future of Life Institute; Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, Institute for People’s Engagement; and Massachusetts Peace Action.
Special thanks to Cindy Woolley, Patricia Weinmann, Christina English, and Alexander Plowden for their logistical support.