Sunday, February 18, 2018

If You're In Congress, You're Feeding At The War Machine Trough; What Happened To Chellie Pingree?

Once upon a time there was an organic farmer and mom who got involved in local Maine politics. She went on to head up the liberal think tank Common Cause, and then ran for Congress from Maine's 1st District.

A bunch of us visited the newly elected Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, in her Portland office. She didn't much appreciate peaceniks schooling her on the economic analysis showing how building weapons is a bad jobs program -- not just in terms of morality, but in terms of jobs. She told us she used to travel around for Common Cause giving presentations on that very same body of research, "The U.S. employment effects of military and domestic spending priorities" (Pollin & Peletier, 2011). Finally, we thought, we had someone representing our interests in Congress.

A few months later I birddogged Pingree at an appearance she had announced at a local nursery. That was where she told me that Democratic Party leadership insisted that she fall in line or become "like Dennis Kucinich" i.e. no one would work with her. Also that she had better support big Pentagon contracts for Bath Iron Works or else.

Pingree explained to me when I challenged her about conversion of BIW to peaceful production, "You get to Congress and they say 'Do you want to put three thousand people out of work your first term in office?'" 

A picture is worth 1,000 words, right? Nowadays replace Mike Michaud's face with Bruce Poliquin's face -- but little else has changed since Pingree et al. pledged allegiance to General Dynamics in 2014 as another nuclear-capable warship was "christened" at BIW.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, Rep. Bruce Poliquin, Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Angus King palling it up with the Secretary of the Navy during his visit to General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard in September, 2017.

Pingree is now in her third term and here's how she was quoted in a story in the Portland Press Herald yesterday about BIW's contract to submit a design for a warship to launch missiles at China and Russia:

“The contract to create a conceptual design for the FFG(X) is a huge opportunity for BIW that could lead to enough work to keep the shipyard busy for years,” Pingree said in a statement. “I’m glad BIW will have the chance to show yet again the skills and expertise that we have here in Maine. I have no doubt that the shipyard’s design will be a strong one and highly competitive in this process.”

This is how you stay in Congress. You do what the big campaign donors say, and you make a big fuss about how having a D after your name makes you hugely different from someone with an R after their name.

Tell that to the people menaced, killed or maimed by weapons sent by the U.S. government.

Back when the Soviet Union had folded and we were all looking forward to a big "peace dividend" with recaptured funds no longer needed for Pentagon contracting, there was a rally for conversion at BIW. (This is years before General Dynamics bought them.) Big names like Democratic Senator George Mitchell and President Bill Clinton spoke at a BIW Labor Day Rally on Sep. 5, 1994.

Looks like we got fooled again.

Now neoliberal Democrats including Jennifer DeChant and Eloise Vitelli of Bath are carrying water for General Dynamics. They're trying to help GD get a tax break of $60 million over 20 years -- or maybe two tax breaks of $30 million over 10 years -- to help them stay "competitive" at the federal defense feeding trough.

A work session to examine amendments written by BIW and intended to make LD1781 more palatable to Maine taxpayers will be held Thursday, February 22 at 1pm in State House Room 127. If you can, lobby your own legislators to oppose this bill.

The public will not be allowed to speak, but expect to hear a lot from BIW vice president John Fitzgerald. That's his dad at the podium with Clinton and Mitchell in 1994 calling for conversion of the shipyard. What happened?

Here's a partial list of the many, many letters and op-eds from opponents of the bill that have appeared in Maine newspapers recently:

No tax giveaways for General Dynamics by Connie Jenkins (Bangor Daily News 2/19/18)
No more corporate welfare by Ilze Petersons (Bangor Daily News 2/17/18)
Collusion’s close to home at BIW by Dan Marks (Portland Press Herald 2/15/18)
No tax handouts for General Dynamic by Rob Shetterly (Bangor Daily News 2/15/18)
Fear card by Mary Donnelly (Times Record 2/14/18)
Op-ed: An opportunity for choosing people over profit by Rosalie Paul (Times Record 2/14/18)
Corporate welfare for GD by Karen Wainberg (Times Record 2/13/18)
Safety on our highways trumps BIW tax break by Cushman Anthony (Portland Press Herald 2/13/18)
Corporate Welfare for General Dynamics by Russell Wray (Sun Journal 2/11/18)
No tax break for General Dynamics by Doug Rawlings (Daily Bulldog 2/9/18)

And from Bruce Gagnon, now in his 7th day of a hunger strike outside BIW opposing the tax giveaway bill,
Maine can't afford to give GD/BIW $30 million either.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Corporate Welfare For General Dynamics? Maine Voters Say NO To LD1781 As Bill Sponsors Scramble To Amend

We are hearing from Maine voters who have contacted their reps in the legislature that the tax giveaway bill for General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works, LD1781, is stalled in committee, and its sponsors are scrambling to draft amendments making it more palatable.

The bill's $60 million price tag is very similar to some other pressing needs in Maine: a Medicare expansion that voters passed in November requires around $54 million to access more than half a billion in federal health care funds.

Also, bringing Maine's aging bridges up to code is estimated to cost around $60 million.

We are hearing now from voters across the state that their reps are expressing reluctance to vote for a tax giveaway to wealthy corporation General Dynamics. Was it GD's $6.8 billion cash offer to buy another government contractor that did it? Or their years of stock buybacks? Or paying their CEO $21 million last year?

Bruce Gagnon and Mary Beth Sullivan in Bath this week.

Regular people in Maine need all the relief they can get. I hope Mainers will continue to contact their legislators to let them know that General Dynamics does not need corporate welfare. Spending $60 million on fixing our bridges or providing health care for low income people should be our priorities.

Bruce Gagnon is on day four of an open-ended hunger strike to defeat LD1781. He actually had a conversation with BIW vice president John "For us to be punished because our owner has capital seems unjust!" Fitzgerald yesterday, which he reports back on here.

While the bill is tabled in the taxation committee, BIW announced it is laying off electricians; despite already receiving generous tax breaks from both the state and the city of Bath.

So who is actually being punished by General Dynamics' insatiable greed for $$$$$$$$$ ?

Meanwhile, I will continue collecting op-eds and letters to the editor from opponents of LD1781, and listing the names of those who have joined Bruce's so-called "one man band" (another gem from Fitzgerald in an email to bill sponsor Rep. Jennifer DeChant).

Here's the current tally as of this morning. Note: I know there have been many more letters published, but these are the ones I can find online links for; if you know of others, please paste a link in comments.

No tax handouts for General Dynamic by Rob Shetterly (Bangor Daily News 2/15/18)
Op-ed: An opportunity for choosing people over profit by Rosalie Paul (Times Record 2/14/18)
Corporate welfare for GD by Karen Wainberg (Times Record 2/13/18)
Safety on our highways trumps BIW tax break by Cushman Anthony (Portland Press Herald 2/13/18)
Corporate Welfare for General Dynamics by Russell Wray (Sun Journal 2/11/18)
Sounding Off Against BIW Tax Credit by Susan Cook (Times Record 1/31/18)
The Right Thing by Eric Herter (Times Record  2/9/18)
Tax break for BIW by Jim Anderberg (Lewiston Sun Journal 2/2/18)
No tax giveaways for General Dynamics by Leslie Manning (Bangor Daily News 1/30/18)
No need for Maine taxpayers to subsidize BIW by Mary Beth Sullivan (Portland Press Herald 1/28/18)
General Dynamics doesn't need tax handouts by Robert Hayes (Bangor Daily News 1/25/18)
No Tax Giveaway for General Dynamics by Mark Roman (Morning Sentinel 1/18/18)
General Dynamics has asked for enough money by Peter Morgan (Portland Press Herald 1/3/18)
No more handouts for General Dynamics by Dud Hendricks (Bangor Daily News 12/25/17)
No More Tax Breaks for General Dynamics and BIW by Lisa Savage (Kennebec Journal 12/3/17)

Individuals in Maine opposed to LD1781:
  1. David Fortier
  2. John Peck
  3. Peter Garrett
  4. Don Kimball
  5. Pasha Huntington
  6. Connie Jenkins
  7. Peter Zack
  8. Katharine Giovanella Chaiklin
  9. P. Amy Carr
  10. Michael Cutting
  11. Robin Farrin
  12. Seth Wigderson
  13. Ursula Slavick
  14. William Slavick
  15. Karen Marysdaughter
  16. Bob Klotz
  17. Starr Gilmartin
  18. Brian Pulling
  19. Jeffrey Evangelos
  20. Dixie Searway
  21. Dan Marks
  22. Sophia Bahlko
  23. Jon Olsen
  24. Nancy Allen
  25. Lynne Williams
  26. Joseph de Rivera
  27. Mike Michalski
  28. Susan Cook
  29. Jacqui Deveneau
  30. Sue Pastore
  31. Ridgely Fuller
  32. Meredith Bruskin
  33. Deborah Capwell
  34. Janet Caldwell
  35. Lisa Burke
  36. Rosalie Paul
  37. Dud Hendrick
  38. Brown Lethem
  39. Robert Walter
  40. Suzanne Hedrick
  41. Denny Dreher
  42. Sally Chappell
  43. Thankful Butler
  44. Alice Bostridge
  45. Doug Rawlings
  46. Joe Ciarrocca
  47. Pat Taub
  48. Selma Sternlieb
  49. Dan Ellis
  50. Judy Robbins
  51. Peter Robbins
  52. Jim Anderberg
  53. Ginny Schneider
  54. Orlando Delogu
  55. Christine DeTroy
  56. Bernard Huebner
  57. Lynn Bradbury
  58. Eric Herter
  59. Patsy Messier
  60. Mary Luby
  61. Carol Huntington
  62. Ann E. Ruthsdottir
  63. Eliot Morgan
  64. Julie Keller Pease
  65. Mary Beth Sullivan
  66. Karen Wainberg
  67. Mary Donnelly
  68. Peter Morgan
  69. Peter Woodruff
  70. Regis Tremblay
  71. Mark Roman
  72. Lisa Savage
  73. Jason Rawn
  74. Russell Wray
  75. Jessica Stewart
  76. Natasha Mayers
  77. Bob Dale
  78. Jeff Evangelos
  79. and "one man band" Bruce Gagnon

Organizations opposing LD1781
  1. 350 Maine
  2. Americans Who Tell the Truth (Brooksville)
  3. COAST (Citizens Opposing Active Sonar Threats, Hancock)
  4. Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space (Bath)
  5. Greater Brunswick PeaceWorks
  6. Green Horizon Magazine (Topsham)
  7. Island Peace & Justice (Deer Isle)
  8. Maine Green Independent Party
  9. Maine Natural Guard (Solon)
  10. Maine Veterans For Peace
  11. Maine War Tax Resistance Resource Center (Portland)
  12. Maine Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (Brunswick)
  13. Peace Action Maine (Portland)
  14. Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine (Bangor)
  15. Peace & Justice Group of Waldo County
  16. Peninsula Peace & Justice Center (Blue Hill)
  17. Resources for Organizing & Social Change (Augusta)

Now I will go ahead and send this updated information to the members of the Joint Standing Committee on Taxation, their clerk, and the bill's sponsors. 

You can, too. Here's a handy copy and paste list of their email addresses:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,