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Local View: Will we ever learn to pick negotiation over war?

I don't pretend to make the following suggestions because of unusual personal knowledge, lifelong study, or high intellect. Since I have read quite a bit and have access to historically proven results, I do believe the following, however. My proposals should be helpful for debt reduction and the wiser use of tax funding.

My first two suggestions are longer range. The third could be made law right away.

One, we can stop our empire-building. Much of what we have done and presently are doing worldwide originally began to help people in foreign countries experiencing starvation, genocide, or some other horror. Now, our efforts are primarily to assist U.S. corporations seeking resources.

We've read or heard some about the results of previous empire-building, such as Genghis Khan of the Mongol empires, the Roman empire's rise and fall, and the United Kingdom's stretch prior to our own. The end of large and spacious empires eventually comes to the most powerful of the powerful because they overextend themselves. Sound familiar? We should be listening.

Two, we can stop, or greatly reduce, our militarized economy — our "military industrial complex," as President Dwight D. Eisenhower first coined the phrase in his 1961 farewell address. While security and safety for conventional warfare may be necessary, an increasing number of nations with nuclear weapons leaves the U.S. no choice but to engage in serious and purposeful negotiation. Is there some comparison in our astronomical military budget to Don Quixote's "tilting" or "fighting windmills?" Eisenhower warned us.

And three, we can introduce a financial-transactions law. Some 40 nations already have such a law.

Consider this proposal from National Nurses United, an organization of direct-care registered nurses. It suggests a half-percent tax on every Wall Street trade of stocks, bonds, foreign currency bets, and derivatives. Such a tax would raise in the neighborhood of $350 million per year.

Consider also what isn't taxed — and who benefits: ATM withdrawals, home mortgages issued to buyers, loans received, the initial issuances of stocks or bonds, short-term revolving bonds, and individuals' 401(k) or mutual fund accounts.

We are all aware of the problems of congressional decision-making and legislation proposals. Our military industrial complex predicts a most difficult struggle will occur over reducing expenditures for the military or recognizing the increasingly evident truth that war is not the answer. Negotiation provides the final answers, because both sides reason things out. Will we ever learn?

Bernie Hughes of Superior is professor emeritus of educational administration at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.