For immediate release -- June 7, 2006
Contact: PrioritiesNH director Steve Varnum, 224-3800 or 748-0317
Ben Cohen, Dr. Lawrence Korb join business leaders
to launch PrioritiesNH Campaign
CONCORD, NH -- At a time when 17,000 New Hampshire children lack health insurance, school construction routinely falls prey to rising property taxes, and a generation of North Country workers needs retraining, why is Congress wasting billions of dollars each year on obsolete weapons?
That was the question voiced by ice cream mogul Ben Cohen (Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream) and military expert Dr. Lawrence Korb (Center for American Progress, Center for Defense Information) in Concord this morning as they joined a group of New Hampshire businesspeople to launch PrioritiesNH, a non-partisan public education and engagement campaign that offers a plan for a more-sensible federal budget.
PrioritiesNH’s goal is a budget that reflects Americans’ commitment to education, health care, deficit reduction, job training and energy independence – at no additional taxpayer expense and without weakening our defense – by shifting spending from obsolete Cold War and nuclear weapons.
“The Priorities campaign focuses on how the federal budget pie is sliced up because it forces politicians to put their money where their mouth is,” said Cohen. “It helps put an end to politicians proclaiming that they support education and kids and working Americans without actually providing the money to do it. And it puts an end to the argument that we’d love to do these things but we just don’t have enough money.”
The Pentagon spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined and has asked Congress for more: $463 billion (56 percent of the total discretionary budget) for the coming fiscal year. Korb, backed by a panel of distinguished retired admirals, generals and military authorities, says 13 percent – $60 billion – of the Pentagon budget buys obsolete Cold War weapons and excessive nuclear weapons.
The Priorities campaign’s Common Sense Budget Act would shift $60 billion annually from the Pentagon to the needs of families and communities. It was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in March.
“If Congress and the President make these cuts, not only would they have more money to spend on other priorities, they would also make our military stronger, allowing our soldiers to focus on the weapons, training and tactics they need to do their jobs and defend our nation,” said Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan. Korb’s report on the proposed cuts can be found on the PrioritiesNH Web site at http://www.prioritiesnh.org/documents/Korb_revised_06.pdf
New Hampshire would receive an additional $155 million a year in federal aid under the Common Sense Budget Act. That would give every child health insurance, rebuild every run-down school over the next 12 years, offer job training to about half the workers laid off by large companies in the past year, and leave $10 million for other needs.
New Hampshire citizens have much to gain from a discussion about federal budget priorities, said PrioritiesNH Director Steve Varnum, because state taxes don’t support their needs. In the current budget, federal dollars pay for more than half of the state’s health and human services.
PrioritiesNH is a project of Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities. Founded by Cohen in 1998, BLSP comprises more than 650 business executives and a dozen distinguished military authorities who understand that wasteful Pentagon spending undermines America ’s security.
“We’re fiscally conservative; targeting wasteful spending that undermines our national security. We’re fighting the lobbyists for defense contractors who score lavish contracts for Cold War era weapons systems that military authorities agree America no longer needs. It’s revenue neutral, since we show how we’d pay for it. And we’re showing the specific benefits in your community from these sensible priorities,” Cohen said.
The campaign is recruiting business people from around New Hampshire to carry the Priorities message. Business leaders working with PrioritiesNH include:
Cohen and Korb spoke with reporters aside one of the campaign’s two budget-themed carnival games – the Budget Wheel of Fortune. The Priorities campaign pledges “Serious Fun,” and employs huge rolling piggy banks, giant stacks of Oreos, vehicles with 10-foot-high pie charts and other demonstrations and novelties to create vivid, lasting impressions in the minds of those who view them.
More information about the campaign is online at: www.PrioritiesNH.org.