2010 Midterms: Jobs vs. Wars in California

California's budget crisis is actually much less than they're spending on the war in Afghanistan. $26 billion for the budget vs $38 billion for war. And what do they get for it? It's not better to live in California thanks to the war. It's actually getting much, much worse.

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Do you know someone in California? Have they seen this?

California’s economy is in a tailspin. One in 5 Californians is out of work. Over three quarters of a million have lost their homes. Desperately needed social services have been cut to the bone. Yet residents of our state continue to pay for a senseless war in Afghanistan that’s not making us safer – a war that has cost California taxpayers nearly $38 billion already.

OK, hold on a minute. $38 billion for war? Just from California? Take a look at California’s financial situation:

Jaws dropped from coast to coast at the size of [California’s] $26.3 billion shortfall, a quarter of the general fund. Even more astounding was state leaders’ difficulty in reaching a budget deal—not just this year, but year after year. With its repeated use of borrowing and IOUs, the Golden State has become the poster child for fiscal irresponsibility.

That’s right, their apocalyptic budget crisis is actually much less than they’re spending on the war in Afghanistan. $26 billion for the budget vs $38 billion for war. And what do they actually get for that money? It’s not like it’s way better to live in California thanks to the war. In fact, it’s actually getting much, much worse.

The depth of the crisis faced by California screams out from the cold hard data. Over one in five Californians are unemployed, underemployed, or have simply given up searching for work. Nearly another one in five lives in poverty. Low-income workers fortunate to have a job have seen their wages decline since 2006 – with middle income worker salaries remaining stagnant. 8.2 million Californians – up from 6.4 million in 2007 – lack health coverage.[…]

Over three-quarters of a million California families were ousted from their homes in 2008 and 2009. The Center for Responsible Lending projects another 2 million foreclosures through 2012 – with nearby homes losing an average of over $50,000 in value. 2.4 million California borrowers – 35 percent of all properties with a mortgage – are currently under water (e.g. owe more on their home than it’s currently worth). By 2011, that number will increase to nearly 70 percent of homeowners.

It’s just dizzying. We’re looking at the vaporization of California’s social fabric, something we supposedly care a lot about it in Afghanistan. And yet all they need is a little over half what they’re spending on crooked dope dealers, murderous robots, and Soviet-style police states. Look at the ridiculous stuff they have to cut thanks to the war:

As Californians depend on core public programs in increasing numbers and need – from the state’s welfare-to-work program (CalWORKS) to In-Home State Services to the Healthy Families Program – the state’s ongoing budget shortfalls have lead to draconian cuts in the very services that have functioned as a lifeline for millions and prevented a more pronounced economic collapse.

Yep, at some point up in Sacramento, the people’s representatives got together and decided, “Sorry guys, we just don’t have room for HEALTHY FAMILIES anymore.” If that doesn’t deserve a giant, full-throated WTF, I don’t know what does. Go read the whole thing, I could literally spend this entire post just block-quoting all the crazy programs they had to cut. 35,000 fewer college students? Come on now, is the debate really going to be Healthy Families vs. War?

If you’re having deja vu, that’s because we’ve had the California conversation before about Winograd and Harman. Jane Harman is just one of the California politicians finding themselves on the wrong side of the Healthy Families vs. War debate. And she’s taking a vicious beating from challenger Marcy Winograd on exactly those grounds. Remember what Winograd said in that Politico piece?

“As we approach our state party convention, we are prepared for a floor fight — Winograd vs. Harman. But it’s not just about the two of us. This is a fight to determine: Jobs vs. Wars, Homes vs. Banks, Your Street vs. Wall Street,” Winograd wrote in the appeal.

“Jobs vs Wars.” Very clear. And that wasn’t just about the party convention, she’s still saying it:

Winograd pointed out that she shares the ILWU´s historical commitment to ending unnecessary wars and investing resources in strengthening our middle class. “Our district alone has spent almost 3-billion dollars to wage perpetual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Congress, I will vote to end the squandering of taxpayer dollars better spent on explicit federal job creation.”

Remember, Harman is the one who said a withdrawal would create “grievous risks” for our national security. She’s like The Afghanistan War Candidate, the Senator from ISAF. She voted down H.Con.Res 248, a clear sign that she sees $38 billion for military aggression as better for California than $26 billion for little things like healthy families and jobs. And y’know, it’s stupid that we even have to have this conversation about Harman and all the other Team War politicians. The solution is so mind-numbingly simple:

Today, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) announced they are introducing legislation requiring the president to develop a flexible timetable to draw down U.S. troops from Afghanistan, in order to enhance our national security and reduce the burden on our armed forces and on taxpayers. The bipartisan, bicameral legislation would require the president to provide a plan for drawing down our forces in Afghanistan. The legislation also increases oversight by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) over work done by private contractors with records of waste, fraud and abuse in order to safeguard U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Set a date and get out. That’s it. We’ll even be “flexible” with it, so that if Godzilla or the conquering Martians appear in Afghanistan, we’ll definitely consider keeping troops there. But as long as we’re there in the middle of an Afghan civil war and blowing all our jobs and families money on Hamid Karzai’s Excellent Adventure, we set a date and get the hell out. Super easy. If Harman could get on board with the people of her state and end this war, all of this awful stuff we’re talking about would just vanish. Harman would be a hero, California’s budget would stabilize, and Winograd would be back organizing voters for Democrats like Harman. But no, Harman and dozens of other politicians in California insist on making Jobs vs. Wars a fight.

Last month, facing tuition and fee hikes of over 30 percent, public university students all over California said enough is enough, organized and went on strike. Now these students have a new message: California is wasting tens of billions of dollars on war even while making public education accessible only to the rich.

We can’t afford to continue a war that does nothing to make us safer.

So, take that video above and forward it to the people you know in California. Let them know that the solution to their budget crisis is ending the war in Afghanistan. Let them know there are candidates out there somewhere who do side with families against the wasteful spending in Washington. All it takes is a little public pressure. And don’t forget to join us on Rethink Afghanistan’s Facebook page. Collaborate with the tens of thousands of others around the country working to bring this war to an end.