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.

1 comment:

Regis Tremblay said...

Another terrific piece Lisa.