Emily Rubino is Executive Director of Peace Action New York State, the New York affiliate of Peace Action. She serves on the boards of the International Peace Bureau and the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament, and Common Security. Emily is dedicated to intersectional activism that recognizes the connections between domestic social justice struggles and international human rights struggles.
As a POGO Ambassador, Emily advocates for reforms to tackle federal government corruption and waste. We sat down with Emily to ask her about it, and this is what she told us:
POGO: What are the kinds of good government reforms that you would like to see on the federal level?
Emily: I would like to see reforms that strengthen oversight and accountability of Pentagon spending. We spend more on defense than the next nine nations combined, and yet the Pentagon has never passed an audit. So much of this outsized budget is also spent wastefully, with billions of dollars — that could instead be spent on important domestic programs — lost to waste and price-gouging by defense contractors.
Likewise, allowing current members of Congress to know which stocks they hold, let alone trade individual stocks, creates obvious conflicts of interest and erodes public trust. Some members on the Armed Services committees also hold defense industry investments. How can we ever trust them to pursue peace and diplomacy when, through stock trading, they can personally benefit from war?
Lastly, Congress is supposed to have the authority to debate and declare war, but the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force have essentially given presidents a blank check for war, and license to informally enter or aid in conflicts around the world, like in Yemen. It’s past time for Congress to repeal them and reassert its constitutional authority.
POGO: What motivates you to speak out on these issues?
Emily: When we see corruption, abuse of power, or other wrongdoing, we must speak out against it rather than accept it as the status quo. I feel empowered to advocate by being surrounded by so many friends and allies, like POGO, who I know are doing incredibly important work alongside me.
POGO: Why do the reforms you’ve advocated for matter to you personally?
Emily: I got involved with Peace Action New York State after returning from a human rights-themed study abroad program in college, where it became clear to me the outsized role the United States plays on the world stage. It is all of our responsibility to hold our government accountable for what it does
and how it spends our money. It’s often said that budgets are moral documents. We must be conscious of how elected officials choose to spend tax dollars, and whether this spending accurately reflects our values.
POGO: How does corruption at the federal level impact your community?
Emily: Pentagon waste pours money down the drain that could instead be used to address important local needs like infrastructure and affordable healthcare and housing. Corruption also erodes trust in the community; in the peace community, many are already skeptical of their elected officials because of their foreign policy stances. Conduct like congressional stock trading — and knowing, for example, that some of the lawmakers crafting defense policy also own defense stocks — only deepens that distrust.
POGO: What advice would you offer someone who wants to advocate on these issues?
Emily: Don’t underestimate the power of your own voice! And if you can, connect with a group or organization that might already be doing work on issues you care about and get involved. There are so many great resources and organizations out there, and it is easier to advocate when you are part of a community of like-minded people who care about the same issues.