“I haven’t given up on the American people, but I have given up on the Democrats,” my friend told me last week. A life-long Democrat and an active participant in several legislative campaigns in Maryland, she has dropped her membership in the party. “The debt deal was the last straw,” she said.
Many progressives are furious about this deal and are not content to sit back and watch what comes next when the “super committee” gets going. In Maryland, a new statewide coalition has been created called “Fund Our Communities, Bring the War Dollars Home.” Representing tens of thousands of people in the state, this coalition aims to ensure that the needs of the people of Maryland are addressed and that the bloated military budget is substantially reduced and overseas wars and occupations ended.
The first major activity of the coalition—a citizens’ Town Hall to be held on Sept. 20—is being cosponsored by over 60 organizations, including advocacy, political and service organizations, veterans’ groups, labor unions, and religious congregations.
The implications of the debt deal for state services in Maryland and the likelihood of additional cuts to state and local programs by the super committee are key items on the program. Last spring, prior to the budget deal that will further decimate services throughout Maryland, State Senator Jamie Raskin commented, “The economic downturn has drained our state and local treasuries to dangerously low levels and is inflicting immense suffering on our people. In the context of this crisis, the current unprecedented level of military spending constitutes a shocking misallocation of national resources.”
At a recent meeting of county leaders, Gov. Martin O’Malley discussed the state’s dire fiscal situation—a $1 billion shortfall–and the potential local impact of super committee decisions, highlighting the state’s interdependence on the federal government.
“Any further help from Washington is doubtful, and more serious hurt to all state economies . . . is very likely,” O’Malley said. Many people believe that one way Congress will attempt to reduce the Federal deficit is to foist more of the costs of Medicaid onto the states, which would be disastrous for Maryland. Medicaid covers nearly 550,000 low-income people in Maryland, 58% of whom are children.
Unlike most other Town Halls, this one will incorporate small group discussions to enable participants to develop plans for what they will do next, ranging from getting names on petitions to acts of civil resistance.
Rion Dennis, executive director of Progressive Maryland, a powerful labor-dominated organization in Maryland and one of the cosponsors of the Town Hall, explains the importance of the event: “This Town Hall is designed to provide an opportunity for us to organize in response to the disgraceful debt deal, unending wars, and the multiple other political outrages of recent years. It represents our chance to demand a politics that is right and fair and just.”
The Fund Our Communities coalition, in collaboration with Peace Action, recently produced a short paper — Five Myths About the Budget Deal — to debunk some of the myths about the debt deal. For example, the White House asserts that the deal cuts the Pentagon base budget by $350 billion, but there is no such requirement in the bill. How budget cuts will be distributed among the different agencies in order to stay within the caps will be fought out in the Congress. Even if $350 billion were “cut” from the Pentagon, the Pentagon budget would still grow, after inflation, since Congress merely proposed a cap on projected spending, not an actual reduction compared to current spending.
Another myth, being propagated by various spokesmen for the Department of Defense, is that the automatic spending cuts that the Pentagon would sustain if the super committee fails to get agreement would devastate the military and put our national security at risk. But again, this is simply inaccurate. Under the highly unlikely scenario in which the maximum cuts possible for the Pentagon under the debt deal were enacted—combining both “stage one” and “stage two” cuts—the U.S. would still account for
Rep. Donna Edwards, who will speak at the Town Hall, voted against the debt deal. Rep. Edwards explained that the bill does nothing to address key causes of the current deficit, namely the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tax cuts for the wealthy, and the prescription drug give-away. She characterizes the deal as an “unfair, unbalanced attack on the poor and working families ” and calls for an agenda that “creates jobs, rebuilds our roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, and grows our economy for future generations.”
In addition to Rep. Edwards, other speakers at the Town Hall include State Senators Roger Manno and Jamie Raskin, Center for American Progress economist Heather Boushey, and Institute for Policy Studies Fellow Karen Dolan. More information here.