On June 12th Matthew Andrews turned in signatures to qualify for the Liberty Union Party primary. He is seeking Vermont’s only seat in the US House of Representatives. Andrews distinguished himself from other candidates early by calling for a crackdown on banks that hide income overseas to prevent it from being taxed here at home. Now he is distinguishing himself further by calling for a 75% cut in the federal budget for prisons and the military.
Matthew Andrews explains, “It sounds like a lot, but actually it would just put our numbers back in line with the rest of the world. Our tax dollars have allowed these industries to flourish, spreading suffering and misery across the United States and around the world.”
Historically the United States prison population was on par with the rest of the world until the mid-1970s. The explosion of incarceration rates was largely due to mandatory sentencing laws and the war on drugs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), more than 2.2 million adults were incarcerated in U.S. federal and state prisons, and county jails at year-end 2011—about 0.94% of adults in the U.S. resident population. That’s 50% more than the next highest incarceration rate, held by Russia.
In addition to this resident prison population, the US government detains 400,000 immigrants each year. Recent reports have revealed an alarming number of unaccompanied children in these facilities only having access to water three times a day and sunlight once a week. Half of these detention centers are for-profit and constitute a powerful block against immigration reform.
Despite an ongoing Federal budget crisis, the Obama administration has called for a full 10% increase over 2010 levels in funding to the federal Bureau of Prisons, to more than $6.8 billion.
“Liberty Union stands for ending the war on drugs by decriminalizing its use. Drug abuse is a public health problem, not a criminal problem. Incarcerating nonviolent drug users has ballooned the prison population, yet it has completely failed to solve the problem. Furthermore, just like the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s, it creates a profitable black market for criminal organizations.”
Expanding on his thoughts on the prison system, Matthew Andrews says, “We should abolish the death penalty and greatly expand the use of compassionate release for inmates who are near death and pose no threat to society. Furthermore, I call for the full abolition of slavery by removing the exception for prison labor in the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution. Nationwide 63,000 inmates produce more than $2 billion worth of products each year. Prison slavery is dehumanizing and robs free people of jobs. The racial disparities in our justice system make this practice even more chilling. I would also propose legislation to forbid prisons from being run by the private sector. It is truly perverse that we allow corporations to profit from incarceration.”
While Matthew Andrews is calling for big cuts in prison spending, they are dwarfed by comparison to his call for a 75% cut in military spending. The U.S. Federal Budget for Fiscal Year 2015 will include $1,307 billion for past and current military expenses, according to the War Resisters League. That’s 45% of overall spending. Andrews says. “A 75% cut would put our expenses in line with other military powers around the world. The remaining portion of this budget should preserve veteran benefits.”
As a Liberty Union Party candidate, Matthew Andrews is quick to remind Vermont voters, “Obama won the Democratic Party nomination in 2008 largely thanks to the antiwar movement, yet six years later we can see that he has extended the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, expanded drone warfare, and left Guantanamo Bay open. This is the legacy of every promise establishment politicians make when there isn’t a powerful grassroots movement to hold them accountable. This is why a people’s Party like Liberty Union is so important.”
“The Cold War ended, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at our military budget. Instead of using our wealth to create the highest standard of living in the world, our military budget grew 67% from 2001 to 2010. Now, the United States is suffering from imperial overreach.” Matthew Andrews lays out a bold agenda to dismantle the military–industrial complex. “Congress should use its authority to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, close military bases on foreign soil, ground the drones, defund pork projects like the F-35, end military aid to oppressive governments, abolish outstanding U.S. debt to war profiteers, and bring our troops home now.”
Such a massive reorientation of budget priorities would convert the United States to a peace economy and create thousands of jobs. A study authored by Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the Political Economy Research Institute, based at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, shows how dollar-for-dollar, we could create more jobs by spending on clean energy, health care, education, or even tax cuts, than we do with the military. One billion dollars of military spending creates 11,200 jobs. By contrast, the same expenditure in “Tax cuts for personal consumption” would create 15,100 jobs. Clean energy would create 16,800 jobs. Health care would create 17,200 jobs. Education topped the study’s list with 26,700 jobs per $1 billion spent. Reallocating funds equally to these sectors would net 7.75 million new jobs.
According to the National Priorities Project, Vermont taxpayers will pay $889.7 million to the Department of Defense in 2014. “Imagine what we could do with that kind of money in our state?” Andrews said. Liberty Union is a political party born out of the peace movement of the early the 1970s. In that tradition, Matthew Andrews reminds us of the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
Liberty Union also successfully turned in petition sheets for nine other candidates on June 12th for the primary contest on August 26th.
More information about the Liberty Union Party and its candidates can be found at www.libertyunionparty.org. Matthew Andrews can be reached at 802-858-6466 or firstname.lastname@example.org.