In June, mayors of 150 of the largest cities in the United States made a suggestion to the president: Instead of spending billions on war, spend the money on making life better at home. The U.S. Conference of Mayors wants to see war dollars used to rebuild infrastructure, create jobs, and develop a new economy based on renewable energy.
Speaking at the 79th annual meeting of the Conference of Mayors, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the group’s president, said, “We can’t be building roads and bridges in Baghdad and Kandahar and not Baltimore and Kansas City.”
Two days after Mayor Villaraigosa’s speech, on June 22, President Obama announced his plan to withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by 2012. The mayors responded with a press release saying, “Drawing down troop levels is step one. Increasing employment levels is step two. We need to use the billions of dollars we are currently spending in Afghanistan to rebuild our domestic economy.”
Forty-one states and the District of Columbia are projecting budget shortfalls for 2012 totaling $102.9 billion. According to the National Priorities Project, those shortfalls could be wiped out by the amount spent on the war in Afghanistan, which was $122 billion in 2011.
The statement is the first on U.S. foreign policy the Conference of Mayors has made since the Vietnam War. It’s unclear what action the mayors will take next, but they met in Los Angeles July 22 to 24 to discuss the federal debt ceiling and the budget crisis in cities.
Oliver Lazenby wrote this article for New Livelihoods, the Fall 2011 issue of YES! Magazine. Oliver is a former YES! intern.