Monday, April 4, 2011

Maine capital hears hundreds roar "Bring our war $$ home!"

The Draw-in component of today almost got overshadowed by the rally that packed the Hall of Flags in Maine's State House in Augusta today -- until you saw the art. Here four year-old Lily shows what she would have spent $3.4 billion Maine has contributed to wars since 2001. I love how she worked the awesome Codepink Bring Our War $$ Home sticker into the design! Most people love to wear a sticker, and if you look at the crowd you'll see Pink popping up everywhere.

Just don't try to pop any pink parasols in the State House. Grumpy security officers said I couldn't bring them into the building because there is a rule against "sticks."
There was plenty of signage, so the debut of the Pink Parasol Peace Brigade in August will have to wait. Maybe "Whole Hog" should be in the audience (our governor was vacationing in Jamaica after three months on the job).

Nicole Moreau of UMaine Farmington did an outstanding job in her remarks connecting the dots between student debt loads and discouraging the attainment of higher education. Earlier the audience gasped when I shared National Priorities Project data showing that Maine could have put 21 incoming classes at U Maine through four years of in-state tuition for the money instead wasted on wars.

Pinks in state capital, Augusta by codepinkhq

My speech about the need to BOW$H -- Hall of Flags, Augusta April 4, 2011

We're here in the state capital today to offer a real solution to the budget crisis that our lawmakers say forces their hands to cut, cut, and cut again.

We're here because our representatives and senators in the Maine legislature tell us they have no choice but to slash spending on social programs, no choice but to raid pension funds, no choice but to reduce health benefits and eliminate cost of living increases for retirees.

I sent a letter to my representative in the Maine House, Philip Curtis of Madison.  I told him I was opposed to the governor's budget proposal, and I offered him, not just a critique, but a solution: Bring Our War Dollars Home! I also asked him to meet with those of us working on the campaign.

Tax payers in the state of Maine have reached into their pockets to the tune of 3.4 BILLION dollars to fund wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some of this was funded with our federal income taxes, and some of it was borrowed against our future income taxes.

This figure does not even include the annual budget for the Department of Defense, or most of the cost for operating more than 800 military bases around the globe. Spending on active military – not even counting the price tag for much needed care for veterans – has climbed to well over 50% of discretionary spending by Congress.

How can this steadily accelerating drain on our resources not affect the fiscal health of the people of Maine?

Rep. Curtis wrote back on March 30: “ Your request is a noble one  but I believe it is aimed in the wrong direction. We in the Maine legislature have little if any impact on federal fiscal issues such as yours. I would suggest a meeting with Sen Snowe or Sen Collins would be more appropriate...”

Here's why my representative is wrong. He's wrong because the wishes of the people should have an impact on federal fiscal issues. When my school district passed a Bring our war $$ home resolution last year, they had a letter right back from Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. She wrote saying that she knew about their budget problems, and she knew that the U.S. should stop pouring money into costly, ineffective wars.

Then she went on to vote no on the war funding supplemental bill, and she spoke out as a leader in Congress on several occasions. I am happy to say that Rep. Mike Michaud also heard us and voted the same.

The campaign to bring our war dollars home is now spreading nationally. Hartford CT passed a resolution a week ago today. Northampton and Amerst Mass also joined Portland and Deer Isle Maine in passing resolutions. The campaign to pass resolutions is on in  California, Maryland, Arizona, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.

According the National Priorities Project, Maine's $3.4 billion share of total war spending would fund an in-state four year education for every incoming freshman class for the next 21 years.

Education is the path out of poverty. That's why I gave up a good paying job in the private sector to become a public school teacher in Maine. That's also why I used a personal day to be here in Augusta with you. I didn't become a teacher for time off in summer, or to retire and live comfortably on a pension. In fact, I gave up years of big contributions to Social Security when I entered the Maine State Retirement system.

I'm here because I'm idealistic. In Maine 17% of our children – nearly 50,000 – live in poverty. This is everyone's problem. Poverty affects a child's intellectual development by the age of 2! By failing to invest in our young people, we are failing to invest in our collective future.

And we're doing this –  apparently – so a few CEOs that manaufacture weapons systems can be obscenely rich, using their wealth to fund campaigns to elect those who will serve THEM rather than serve the people of Maine.

We at the local community level must take matters into our hands and demand that the madness stop. That is why we call on our town coucilors, our city mayors, our state legislators and yet, even, our governor to send the message loud and clear to Washington DC: Bring our war $$ home!
Mayor Joanne Twomey of Biddeford (right) was an exciting addition to the news conference when she stepped to the podium and called on Washington to bring our war dollars home so that her town does not have to make huge cuts to education.
Maine Public Radio covered her remarks at the rally here.

1 comment:

Steve Burns said...

Excellent report! I've posted something about the Maine campaign on our website, at Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice:
Let's hope people in Wisconsin are inspired by your example!