Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Day 17: Local paper rejects my scheduled Op-Ed

With friends yesterday at the capital in Augusta, Maine

The local Times Record newspaper, based in nearby Brunswick, yesterday rejected my scheduled Op-Ed in the paper.  Our local group called PeaceWorks has a twice a month column in the paper which I often write for.  The only rule we've ever been told was that we had to keep the issues local.  Nothing could be more local than the one I submitted.  When we asked the editor why it was rejected he said the following:


• There's no attribution to the [BIW] workers he cites, and I'm afraid we're going into hearsay territory with this;

• I'd like some attribution to "43,000 kids living in poverty in Maine" — where did that number come from?

• I haven't seen any reports that General Dynamics is "suggesting that if they don't get this $60 million then BIW might have to shut their doors and move." Does he have a source for this?

• If Bruce hasn't eaten since he went on hunger strike two weeks ago, how is he still able to demonstrate outside BIW?


My responses to his questions did not seem to change the editor's mind and he refused to run the Op-Ed.  So here it is and you can decide what you think.

The Tragedy of Corporate Welfare in Maine

By Bruce K. Gagnon

The Taxation Committee of the state legislature will likely vote ‘Ought to pass’ this week on LD 1781 [they actually delayed the bill until March 6] – the corporate give-a-way of $60 million to General Dynamics (GD).  The bill will then go to the floor of the state House and Senate for final vote.

It’s been an interesting process to watch legislators, who complained about Sen. Susan Collins supporting the Trump federal tax bill, turn around and support a similar bill (on a lesser scale) in Augusta.  And politicians wonder why citizens have become so cynical and many have given up on politics.  The idea of truth, fairness and justice seem to get squeezed out of the process in Augusta just like in Washington.

I’ve been doing a hunger strike against LD 1781 since February 12 and now about 25 others around Maine have joined me by fasting for days at a time.  During this period I’ve been going down to BIW during shift change to stand with a sign and hand out flyers.  I’ve had some very interesting conversations with workers.

Some workers I met are not in favor of this corporate welfare bill for GD.  Two told me that they were angry about the last contract that froze wages for the next four years and forced give-backs in health and pension benefits.  Other workers talked about the stock buybacks by GD – from 2009-2017 the company bought back $14.4 billion of its own stocks – driving up market share.  Buybacks benefit corporate executives like GD’s CEO who made $21 million in 2016.

On my flyer that I handed out at BIW (which I titled ‘Where is our solidarity?’) I said in part, “There are now 43,000 kids living in poverty in Maine.  There is no money to fix pot-holes in roads and our bridges are deemed ‘deficient’ by DOT.  Thousands in Maine have no health care.  In rural Maine hospitals, schools and mills are closing.  What could Maine do with $60 million that GD does not really need? ”

It’s been quite rewarding to watch the level of interest and activity across Maine around this bill.  There have been more than 80 letters to the editor published in 20 Maine media outlets.  People really do care about how their tax dollars are spent by Augusta.

The fear card is constantly played by GD suggesting that if they don’t get this $60 million then BIW might have to shut their doors and move.  Ridiculous.  BIW is a money making operation for GD and the backlog of ships continues to grow.

One important thing we’ve learned during the debate over LD 1781 is that when GD signs a contract to build ships at BIW all of their costs are covered by the tax payer funded Pentagon budget. Worker training, equipment, materials, wages, utilities and a healthy profit for the company are all included in the contract.  We also learned that GD’s taxes owed to Maine are also reimbursed by the federal taxpayers under the contract.

It is the job of the federal government to pay for the national defense.  It is not the job of state and local governments to cover those expenses.  But corporations like GD have upped the pressure on states like Maine (and Connecticut where GD is demanding $150 million) and cities like Bath that are hit up by GD for tax breaks.

Corporations are in business for one thing and that is to make maximum profit.  They don’t care where they get it as long as they succeed.  But the role of government (local, state, national) should be to strike a balance to ensure all the needs of the people are met – health care for all, fully funded education, roads, bridges, water, sewer and other public services in good repair.  In order to pay for those things government needs to ensure that tax dollars are properly spent to do the most good.  In my opinion LD 1781 violates that mandate to do good.

The public should be alarmed about this corporate welfare bill.  Most conservatives complain about welfare for poor people but remain largely silent about tax dollars given to the corporate class.  Generally liberals oppose corporate welfare but sadly most elected Democrats in the Midcoast are supporting LD 1781 because they fear they will not be reelected if they deny GD.  They’ve put their own reelection above the needs of those who presently suffer from poverty and neglect in Maine.  To me that is a real tragedy.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Fran Foulkrod said...

So, GD wants tax breaks on taxes that are being covered by the Federal Government in the contract, correct? That seems like they get to keep the money that is intended for taxes. The taxes should be paid, or the money should be deducted from the contract. Seems like they are getting the money twice.

3/3/18, 11:00 PM  
Blogger Bruce K. Gagnon said...

Bingo!

3/4/18, 7:46 AM  

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