Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Costs of War: Crumbling Infrastructure, Moral Injuries #GDAMS

Photo source: Portland Press Herald
Martha Spiess produced this video of speakers at Portland, Maine's Global Day of Action Against Military Spending (GDAMS) on April 19, 2016.

The final speaker, Bruce Gagnon from Bath, talks about an action at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard on June 18 where yet another destroyer will be launched. Bruce also mentions the crumbling infrastructure in Maine that does not get fixed with the money flowing to the Navy to build more and more costly weapons of mass destruction. (He also subsequently issued this correction: In my words I made one factual mistake.  I said space technology is costing $100 million per year, I meant to say $100 billion per year.)

A particularly relevant point as the crumbling infrastructure in Bath recently caused a vehicle driven by a mother carrying her 12 year old son to plunge through a deficient guardrail on an viaduct near the BIW shipyards. The SUV fell and crushed a pickup truck on the street below. 

Miraculously, no one died.

Maine has a lot of days when weather events make our roadways slippery, and April 4 was one of them. Dennis Hoey reported in the Portland Press Herald:
After the accident, the Maine Department of Transportation closed the viaduct to all traffic for about two hours. The department said its road crew had salted the road just a few minutes before the crash because snow was falling. “We don’t know yet if speed was a factor. We don’t know if roadway surface was a factor,” Field said. He said alcohol does not appear to have been a factor.
Now the state's Department of Transportation (DOT) is being investigated for its failure to respond to two dire warnings by its own inspectors about the state of the guardrails on the viaduct. Initially, the DOT insisted the guardrails were in fine condition but digging by actual investigative journalist Matt Byrne turned up a scandal. From his April 22 report in the PPH:
State failed to act on inspector’s call for repairs to Bath bridge where SUV fell 40 feet
Dozens of railing bolts were broken or missing nuts on the viaduct where the SUV carrying a mother and child from Windham broke through the barrier on April 4.
Photo source: Portland Press Herald
What does all this have to do with war taxes paid to the federal government?

As I note in the video above, Maine taxpayers sent $148 Billion to the Pentagon for its base budget in Fiscal Year 2015, plus an additional $88 Million to the Overseas Contingency Fund to continue its many ongoing wars. How many viaduct bolts and crews to install them would that have funded? 

The roadway in question is within sight of the BIW shipyards, and its workers are among the 18,000 vehicles traveling over it every day.

The state and the town of Bath both give massive tax relief to General Dynamics, an out of state Pentagon contractor that builds weapons of mass destruction at great profit to its shareholders each year.

As Rosie Paul says in her introduction in the video above, people pay their taxes in the belief that they are contributing to the common good: roads, schools, health care and the like.

As polls indicate time and again, taxpayers would prefer to spend money on things like viaduct bolts and not on things like another mansion for the owners of General Dynamics. 

Its current CEO formerly worked for the CIA and while working for General Dynamics was married to a staffer on the House defense appropriations subcommittee. This is  typical of the revolving door between government and the private sector. So much for democracy. So much for the common good.

Photo credit: National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

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