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Good news for Obama!

February 25, 2009

Obama’s speech last night to Congress was one of the most hopeful, promising speeches in a long time. As one of my coworkers said, it is great to know that we have a leader who is incredibly intelligent, well-spoken, thoughtful and insightful.

Recognizing that energy, health care and education are absolutely essential in this time of crisis is quite impressive and very promising.

It is also important to recognize that we are going to have to take money from somewhere in order to accomplish these goals. Well we have good news for Obama: We found the money–the $537 billion that he is going to propose for the military budget and the $80 billion war supplemental that he will soon send to Congress.

Much to our chagrine, last night Obama said, “To relieve the strain on our forces, my budget increases the number of our soldiers and Marines.” This is another one of his campaign promises that Obama should reconsider. In the months preceding Obama’s election, we encouraged people to Make Peace an Election Year Issue, to point out that even though both parties support an increase in the size of the military, most Americans didn’t support this increase.

The good news is that the conversation in DC has begun to change. Yesterday I attended a meeting called by Rep. Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, where he, along with several other representatives, proposed cutting the military budget by 25%. Frank put the argument for cutting the military budget simply: “Either we reduce what’s project for military spending, or we will not be able to respond to domestic needs.” Rep. Lynn Woolsey reiterized that the “federal budget is an expression of our vales and priorities as a nation.”

One of the key policy wonks that advised Frank on this issue, Dr. Gordan Adams from the Woodrow Wilson International Center, said that Obama’s proposed troop increase represents an “utter absense of strategy” because we this the new troops won’t be ready until the time when Obama is supposed to be drawing down the forces in Iraq. He also pointed out that increasing troops will “increase military costs all the way around.”

When asked where the leadership stands on cutting the military budget, Frank assured the room of activists and congressional staff that the Democratic leadership has been talking about it. Critically, he also pointed out that it will take the effort of voters all around the country to lobby their members of Congress to actually make it happen. Obama and our members of Congress need to be pushed to cut the military budget, and we have to be the ones pushing them!

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