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.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Day 19: How things really work in Augusta - it's "the lobby"



As we move closer to the actual voting in the Maine legislature on the $60 million corporate welfare bill for General Dynamics (GD) there are many people sending me information about the thinking of various members of the House and Senate in Augusta.  (I'm not going to use any names in this below just to protect the 'innocent'.)

Today I was talking with one person who informed me that he had just spoken with a long-time BIW worker who lives in a nearby town.  This worker told my friend that he/she was opposed to the GD corporate subsidy bill and was going to write his/her state representative and make the case that as long as the CEO of General Dynamics was getting $21 million a year, while workers at the shipyard had no pay increases for 4 years and give-backs in retirement and pension plans, then this bill should not pass.  That is powerful to hear - and I've heard the same thing from other workers while at BIW during the past two weeks. 

One state representative (a Democrat) wrote back to a friend who had asked this rep to vote against LD 1781.  The representative replied:

Thanks for writing to share your thoughts.  This is a very complex issue because of the way that our society has allowed military/industrial corporations to be established in multiple locations and because of the way these multi-state national corporations now work by inviting their parts to compete against each other. We cannot (and will not) compete with Mississippi, which throws 10s of millions at their GD subsidiary.
It is certainly correct that General Dynamics does not need Maine's money. It is also correct that we have many needs for our tax dollars that are not being met under the current administration.
However, because all of the legislative leadership on both sides of the aisle signed on to this bill and because, I believe, the majority of the Legislature (all of the R's and enough of the D's) will vote for this bill, I am now attempting to make this the best bill that it can be.  We are trying to make certain that any $$ BIW receives are tied to job retention and job growth.  This way they cannot use state dollars to "streamline" their operations and eliminate jobs.  We will also attempt to make this bill cost less in the long run.
Working on it...

My friend wrote the representative back asking, "So will you in the end vote against this corporate welfare to the detriment of our state budget showing so many deficits?"  I doubt there was a second response from the representative.

Many Mainers are trying to understand why the Democrats (as you can see above clearly understand that this is a bad bill) are voting for it anyway.  One state representative who opposes the bill wrote me last night with an explanation of how things really work in Augusta.

I think it useful to understand why the major party statehouse leadership is inclined toward supporting corporate welfare.  The leaders purchase loyalty from their caucus members through funds laundered by the leadership-PAC process, funds that mostly originate with "the lobby" which are primarily corporations.  Those members who are most loyal (and can be 'trusted' to follow instructions) become committee chairs, so it is not surprising that they are generally weak personalities.  (Remember that half of the 15 Democrats who flipped their votes to get rid of ranked choice voting were committee chairs.)
The most vulnerable statehouse leaders are those who are seeking higher elected office; the others are not accountable to anyone.
I hope these comments are helpful.
Thus the bottom line is that the corporate "lobby" really runs the show in Augusta - like in most places across the nation.  The needs of the people are secondary to the wants of the corporate masters - Mr. Big as I like to call the oligarchy.  The Democrats, who love to talk glowingly about social justice and fairness during election time, mostly fall in line because they want to advance.  They go along to get along.  The people be damned in the end.

The options for the public are - surrender and take any crumbs that might fall off the table, or fight like hell to the bitter end.  I choose to fight and thank those around the state who are doing the same.

The only way to take on "the lobby" is to do it publicly without compromise.  Let's see which Democrats turn tail and run when the votes are counted on LD 1781.

Always know who your real friends are.....

Bruce  

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