defund … something?

but let’s not defund the postal service!

We have seen a lot of protests. We have seen statues pulled down, institutions renamed, products scheduled for rebranding. We have seen a lot of discussion, a lot of reading, a lot of educating. 

What we have not seen is a whole lot of purposeful response from government.

Oh yeah, we’ve had police crackdowns and shows of police solidarity. We’ve seen Trump get right on it to make sure folks who tear down statues as they seek social change pay a hefty price for it. We’ve seen our legislature gin up reform bills designed to go exactly nowhere. We’ve seen the presumptive Democratic nominee suggest reform, and, oh, more funding to re-educate police (again).

So, for all that the people made it pretty damn clear they want change, it’s kind of a nothing sandwich from our illustrious “representation.” How could anyone be surprised?

Seems like the government rarely rises to the moment unless it’s on behalf of the only class they care about. 

So as we call for defunding of police, i.e., shrinking police budgets while diverting funds to programs that actually help build socially and economically healthier communities and individuals, I cannot help but ask, why stop there?

I can think of a lot of things that make excellent candidates for the defunding treatment. 

For starters, how about the legislature? They seem to be doing jack on behalf of the people these days. What say we just cut the budget for salaries and benefits for pretty much everyone in the House and the Senate right now? We could put those funds to actual good use. That’s at least $300 million in salaries and benefits alone, but if we throw in other federal departments and agencies, we’re talking hundreds of billions.

For example, how about the Environmental Protection Agency? I think it’s pretty clear it’s become an anti-environmental sort of body — time to cut the budget for that. There’s more than $8 billion with which we could actually do something. We could net a few billion more if we defund the sold-out FDA while we’re at it. The Department of Agriculture – almost $150 billion. We could net another $55 billion or so if we give the CIA and the rest of the National Intelligence Program the defunding treatment.

How about the war machine? Sure Sen. Bernie Sanders is proposing a 10 percent cut to military spending, but it’s almost guaranteed that legislators will make sure that the initiative goes nowhere — like they always have. We could shift an astonishing amount of money from military endeavors to peace endeavors. The 10% that Bernie Sanders is talking about amounts to $74-frick’n-billion.

How about prisons? The US predilection for locking people up translates to $80 billion each year in taxpayer dollars, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. I think we all know we’re overdue for scaling back on incarceration.

How about animal agriculture? We currently subsidize this environmentally destructive, human and animal health hazardous industry with about $38 billion in taxpayer funds. Come on, this is a no brainer. What could we do with $38 billion?

This is just a smattering of budget items that leap to mind.

It is not to say that there aren’t some worthy programs and purposes to which our tax dollars are directed, but it blows my mind the way our government just squanders a jaw-dropping amount of our tax dollars for things none of us actually want or need. Many of these things we pay for are things we actually resent or to which we have ethical objections, while there are other things that go lacking.

I think it’s high time for a little defunding.

a whole new kind of garden

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey gets credit for showing up and engaging with the protestors there. He’s all about police reform, just like we’ve been hearing for years all over the country. 

When asked, however, he indicated that he would not support fully defunding the department at the epicenter of the current unrest. That response was met with immediate scorn from the gathering of protestors surrounding him. They jeered him from the event, the crowd parting for his shamed departure.

Calls for reform, at this point nothing more than a tired rejoinder, are just not enough.

And if you weren’t convinced that reform is not enough, have a moment to consider the members of the Buffalo, New York emergency response team — all of whom resigned their roles on that team (though not their jobs) in solidarity with the two now charged with felonious assault on a 75-year old protestor. They and others assembled to cheer those two after their release. Do the citizens of Buffalo feel safer now?

What is this group of people really about? They can avert their eyes and walk past a bleeding old man laying on the ground after members of their own delivered blows to him, but they’ll show up enthusiastically in a way that ultimately communicates the notion that laying blows on a 75-year old non-violent protestor is somehow justified in their world.

It is not enough to talk simple reform. All of the various attempts at reform still led to this day.

Defunding these departments and diverting the monies to positive, supportive development in the communities makes all the sense in the world. After watching so much police violence now and through the years, and considering some of the toxic police union rhetoric, fully defunding does not sound unreasonable.

As in disband. Let ‘em all go. Phase our current departments out, and start over with a whole new approach. 

We wouldn’t even call our new groups ‘police’ or use the militarized moniker ‘officers’ — or, for that matter, captains, sergeants, units, etc. Forget all that military stuff, including the weaponry.

No, I’m not sure what we’d call them but their objective would be laser focused on peace and safety for the people. They would be trusted community partners, not an opposing, militarized force acting as the muscle of the government and the privileged. They would value life and quality of life over property. 

It will require a lot of rethinking.

It is something that needs to be fleshed out in a community process. One that ought to get started in communities across the nation.

Let’s start a whole new kind of garden. Let’s do it permaculture style – sustainable, supporting life, resilient, caring, and fair.