The National Priorities Project (NPP) was founded in 1982 to “educate the public on the impacts of federal tax and spending policies at the community level.” Its mission is to offer “citizens and community groups [the] tools and resources [they need] to shape federal budget and policy priorities which promote social and economic justice.” In NPP’s view, such justice can best be achieved by means of government-mandated redistribution of wealth –through higher taxes and greater allocations for social welfare programs. To justify these means, NPP publishes synopses and analyses of federal spending data and disseminates these to leftist activists and the media. In general, NPP’s publications are critical of military spending while supportive of social welfare expenditures.
Some NPP reports are published annually, including the “President’s Budget” (which shows the impact of various federal budgetary components on different demographic groups) and the “Tax Day Report” (which evaluates how tax dollars are apportioned at the state level).
Since the start of the War on Terror, NPP has sought chiefly to expose what it considers to be wasteful spending by the Pentagon. Of the 32 press releases published by NPP between mid-2003 and mid-2007, more than half were specifically critical of military expenditures, particularly with regard to the Iraq War. NPP exhorts the government to redirect a significant portion of its military funding toward public education, universal health insurance, environmentalist projects, and welfare programs.
NPP administers an interactive online database designed to serve as a resource for grassroots activists. According to NPP, this tool “has the potential to empower community groups and national organizations … [to] create tailored reports on how the federal budget impacts their communities on an array of social issues ranging from hunger and poverty to military spending.” The database also has a “Trade Off” feature that allows users to see, for example, how many music and art teachers could be employed with funds currently earmarked for the ballistic missile defense program.
NPP worked with the Media Education Foundation on the 2004 documentary film Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire, which examines “how a radical fringe of the Republican Party has used the trauma of the 9/11 terror attacks to advance a pre-existing agenda to radically transform American foreign policy.” Notable leftists who lent their voices to this production were Noam Chomsky, Norman Mailer, Cindy Sheehan, and Howard Zinn. The film is narrated by NAACP Chairman Julian Bond.
In January 2007, NPP and USAction jointly conducted a workshop titled “Cost of War to Local Communities — Building Peace and Economic Justice.” The objective of the workshop — which was organized by the pro-Castro coalition United for Peace and Justice — was to provide information on the monetary cost of waging the Iraq War, and to “identify strategies and new groups to work with nationally and in your community to bring this war to an end.”
Prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, NPP collaborated with the Institute for Policy Studies on a program called “Cities for Peace,” which was established to help publicize news of upcoming anti-war events and to provide resources that citizens could use to lobby their congressional representatives to vote against the Iraq War. The campaign has since been renamed Cities for Progress, and its three principal goals are to “bring the troops home,” advocate for the implementation of a universal health care system, and organize against the allegedly unfair labor practices of Wal-Mart.
While NPP identifies itself as a “nonpartisan” entity that does not endorse any candidates for public office, it consistently partners with organizations of the political Left. Members of NPP’s “Local Partner Network” include ACORN, the American Friends Service Committee, the Children’s Defense Fund, Iraq Veterans Against the War, the League of Women Voters, Peace Action, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Win Without War, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
NPP is a member of the Moving Ideas Network, a coalition of more than 250 leftwing activist groups, which began as a project of the Center for American Progress — a think tank run by Hillary Clinton and John Podesta.
The founder and Executive Director of NPP is Greg Speeter, a longtime opponent of military spending who alleges that neoconservatives are essentially warmongers indifferent to the needs of the poor. “The neoconservative movement,” he says, “really represents a very radical approach to the role of the federal government. It’s basically trying to cut back the ability of the federal government to address many of its community needs by increasing the military budget.”
Board members of NPP include: Jen Kern, former Director of ACORN’s Living Wage Resource Center; Michael Klare, a socialist professor who formerly directed the Institute for Policy Studies and currently sits on the Boards of the Arms Control Association and Human Rights Watch‘s Arms Division; Stephanie Luce, a longtime labor movement activist who co-authored The Living Wage: Building a Fair Economy; Vijay Prashad, co-founder of the Forum of Indian Leftists who writes each month for ZNET and occasionally for CounterPunch; and M. Sue Thrasher, who has worked with the Institute for Policy Studies.
NPP receives funding from a number of foundations, including the Carnegie Foundation, the Colombe Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Peace Development Fund, the Proteus Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Stewart R. Mott Charitable Trust, and the Tides Foundation.