The cost of waging war overseas on the fumes of a sputtering national economy is stirring some unusual, creative protests. Mayor Matt Ryan of Binghamton, NY, is vowing to install a digital “cost of war” clock on the front of the municipal building to show local residents how much they pay in taxes for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Ryan’s challenge of federal fiscal priorities quickly made national news.
“Every mayor in this country is struggling with one of the worst recessions we've ever seen, and we know better than anybody the negative impacts of diverting billions of tax dollars away from essential community needs to reckless wars and excessive U.S. militarism,” Ryan said at a news conference on Wednesday. Ryan was joined by members of the Broom County Cost of War Project, who donated the sign and offered to cover the installation costs, reported a local TV station, WBNG.
“For the last five years, I've been advocating for a dramatic shift in spending priorities in Washington, toward what Dr. Martin Luther King called programs of social uplift,” Ryan added. “I've also always encouraged community dialogue around important issues that affect our daily lives. So I am pleased to support this awareness campaign, and delighted to see residents take a more active role in one of the most important issues of our times.”
According to fiscal data provided by the National Priorities Project, the Broom County Cost of War Project stated that, “Binghamton taxpayers have contributed $138.6 million to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars since 2001, which is more than enough to cover ALL local property tax bills for the next FOUR years (revenue generated by local property taxes in 2010 City budget is $32.1 million).”
City Councilman Robert Weslar told WBNG that he likes the mayor’s idea. "If you were to give us the money that's spent on the war or a tenth of the money that's spent on the war," said Weslar, "we could cut taxes by all of it. We could fix every road."
The local FOX News station, WICZ, tagged the mayor’s move controversial. “Some veterans are protesting the sign, saying it neglects to show the importance of their decision to serve,” WICZ reported, then added: “But the mayor says that's not the point of the project. ‘We're not trivializing anybody's sacrifice. In fact, I think by having this debate and trying to find better ways to resolve our problems as human beings, we are actually honoring our soldiers,’” Ryan said.
“The numbers on the clock will change to show how much the country, state, county, and city is spending on the war,” WICZ noted. “Ryan says the sign will remain at city hall until the war has ended.”
George McAnanama of the Binghamton chapter of Veterans For Peace told WBNG that the war toll is far higher than the dollar signs that will flash on the cost-of-war clock. It also includes, he said, "The people that are coming home damaged from the war. The hidden cost of war. Who's lost a limb? Who's psychologically damaged? Who may never recover?"