By Jodie Evans and Andrew Behar
Our investments are funding war, guns, and militarism at home and around the world. From our personal investments to state pension plans to university trusts, the money that individuals and communities are using for retirement, long-term planning, and even higher education is subsidizing violence in our backyards and other nations. The good news is we have the power to cut our ties to war, guns, and militarism by using a new web-based tool, Weapon Free Funds.
The U.S. is engaged in endless wars around the world. For 17 years, we have been fighting in the Middle East, leading us into seven active conflict zones and countless other proxy wars. We are still fighting an invisible war on drugs that takes the war zone from Afghanistan to Mexico. Most Americans have no idea that the U.S. maintains nearly 800 military bases around the world, or that the U.S. supplies the weapons that wreak havoc on innocent civilians and children in Yemen, Syria, Pakistan, and more.
So why the constant drive to fuel more and additional conflict? As the saying goes, follow the money: who profits from all this death and devastation?
The merchants of war who have shaped U.S. foreign policy since the end of WWII have a foothold so strong, the act of extracting ourselves from the war economy has become incredibly complex. In 2017, the U.S. gave more than $750 billion to the Pentagon, which turned around and handed $350 billion of that to weapons manufacturers—companies like Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman, some of whom are also currently profiting from the construction of immigrant detention facilities. The CEOs of those companies took home a combined salary of $96 million. Meanwhile, a U.S. worker on minimum wage cannot afford a standard two-bedroom apartment, working 40 hours a week.
Our communities are scrambling to find resources to pay for basic services. There’s still no power in Puerto Rico. Flint, Michigan, doesn’t have clean water. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Congress and the White House deal blow after blow to people and communities, slashing funding for SNAP, raising rent for those on Section 8 housing, and rolling back protections for LGBTQ+ students. Washington is simultaneously sowing instability, destruction, and poverty overseas and in our own backyard.
The military-industrial complex rewards Congress’s continued cooperation with a constant stream of campaign contributions, ensuring an endless cycle of tax dollars to fund their activities—a deadly revolving door that has cornered nearly all of our elected officials on the state and federal level.
The militarization of our communities has manifested itself in countless ways—from weapons manufacturers receiving the aforementioned federal contracts to construct detention facilities, to the Pentagon giving away excess military equipment to our police forces. The popularity and accessibility of military-style assault rifles has resulted in mass shootings at our schools at unfathomable rates, while Congress refuses to act to curb gun violence. Why? Campaign contributions from the NRA.
But what role do we play in subsidizing war, death, and destruction? Employer-offered 401(k)s or personal mutual fund portfolios are likely invested in weapons manufacturers, including large defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, and gun companies such as American Outdoor Brands—the company that makes the assault rifle that was used in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.
This is why As You Sow and CODEPINK have collaborated on Weapon Free Funds to allow individuals, communities, universities, foundations, faith-based institutions and others to search 3,000 commonly held mutual funds and ETFs to determine if they are invested in weapons and war, and if so, to find cleaner options.
While we continue to hold Washington accountable for its excess, we also encourage and celebrate the power of individuals, communities, and institutions to shift the conversation when they invest with their values.
Jodie Evans is co-founder and co-director of CODEPINK.
Andrew Behar is the CEO of As You Sow.