With 15 million Americans out of work -- the highest number since the Bureau of Labor Statistics has kept records
With another 10 million working part-time looking for full-time work
With state governments cutting 577,000 employees over the last four years
With wars in Afghanistan and Iraq costing the equivalent of the total annual debt of all 50 states
With an average 60 percent annual increase in war spending since 2001
With 11,000 teachers laid off in New York State in 2011
With 36 librarians fired in 2010 from the Buffalo and Erie County Library system
With 5,000 people in the Buffalo metropolitan area earning their living as debt collectors
With 23 percent of U.S. children -- 17 million -- living in food-insecure households in 2008
With 45.7 million Americans receiving SNAP/Food Stamps in May 2011
With a record number -- 3.1 million -- millionaires in the U.S. owning a combined wealth of $11.6 trillion dollars
With tax rates for wealthy Americans at their lowest in 20 years
With Exxon-Mobil paying zero income tax on a profit of $19 billion
With Bank of America receiving a refund of $1.9 billion while making a profit of $4.4 billion.
With "... major banks producing the major portions of their profits, not by lending, but by gambling in stock trades using taxpayer dollars"
President Obama and Congress decided, in effect, that there is not enough pain. We must give up government spending equivalent to $2.6 trillion over 10 years.
Their logic is: We must lay off millions of more workers in order to get our financial house in order. Equivalently, there will be cheaper U.S. labor, and a decreased standard of living.
All these cuts are unnecessary. The bulk of our debt problem arises from two sources: the Bush II tax cuts on the wealthy ($1.8 trillion) and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ($1.5 trillion).
This means there are two other ways to achieve our goal of cutting $2.6 trillion:
*Stop the wars and gain $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
*Raise taxes on the wealthy to 1999 tax rates, and gain $1.8 trillion over 10 years.
Of course, if we placed a minuscule 2.3 percent tax on the combined wealth of the 3.1 million millionaires we could achieve the same goal in 10 years.
The WNY Peace Center supports the immediate ending of all wars and increasing tax rates on the wealthy to solve our debt problem. Let's put Americans back to work in peaceful jobs.
(Sources for these statements are on our website: www.wnypeace.org.)
Wayne Alt is chair of the WNY Peace Center's coordinating board of directors. Charley Bowman is its interim executive director.