Bangor teach-in focuses on the opportunity costs of the war in Afghanistan

Posted Oct. 09, 2010, at 7:23 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — While many people were watching football, cooking out, or contemplating raking leaves, 40 people participated in the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine

the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine’s “teach-in” Saturday about excessive military expenditures as the war in Afghanistan enters its 10th year.

“The word teach-in arose in the 1960s around the time of the Vietnam War because it was different from a demonstration or a march,” said Doug Allen, the center’s education director and a University of Maine philosophy professor. “It’s to educate people with details they don’t have so they can process things for themselves.”

The keynote speaker was Jo Comerford, executive director of the National Priorities Project, a research organization that analyzes and clarifies federal data on how federal tax dollars are spent.

The Northampton, Mass., native showed how the poverty, home foreclosures, and unemployment rates are still high nationally while military spending is still either holding steady or increasing.

“It’s the anniversary of the war, but there’s also the larger issue of how much it’s costing us,” Allen said.

Comerford said the United States is by far the No. 1 nation in the world in terms of how much of its budget goes toward military spending — 58 percent according to 2011 federal budget figures. She compared that figure to budget spending totaling 6 percent on the environment, energy and science; 6 percent on the government; and 6 percent on housing and communities.

“I take issue with the notion that the United States is by far the world’s biggest spender when it comes to international aid,” said Comerford.

She also pointed to tax cuts for the rich, the Bush deficit, and military overspending as poor financial decisions.

“As you can see from this graph, the opportunity cost of the Afghanistan War for the average Bangor citizen is $650 per person,” she said, using figures supplied by the website www.nationalpriorities.org.

Attendees took a break after the 90-minute presentation, broke up into smaller discussion groups, and then held a commemorative march to Cascade Park and back.

A potluck vegetarian supper was held after the march.

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