By Megan Poinski
A hall packed with progressives applauded the prospects of cutting back military spending, reinstating the millionaires’ tax, passing President Obama’s job creation legislation, and transforming Maryland’s health care system into a state-run single-payer operation.
The town hall meeting in downtown Silver Spring Tuesday night was put together by more than 60 progressive, religious and union groups making up the Fund Our Communities Coalition.
The main theme of the two-hour “Taking Back the Budget” meeting for about 150 people, was how to inspire change in Annapolis and Washington to fix budgetary woes and benefit the economy. State Sen. Jamie Raskin, who represents the downtown Silver Spring area, had circulated a letter during the session this year to his colleagues in Annapolis asking the federal government to divert money from military spending to local spending and opened the meeting pleading for that petition to come to fruition.
“We demand the reversal of priorities because we cannot afford the military industrial complex any longer,” Raskin said.
Sen. Roger Manno, a Montgomery Democrat on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, shared the state’s financial issues with the crowd. With the gap between revenues and expenses getting smaller, the retirement and pension system’s unfunded liability getting larger, and the state’s debt ceiling getting closer, Manno said that there are many difficult choices for the state to make.
Applause for higher taxes
There are different ways to make those difficult choices: through spending cuts and through tax increases. Manno put a PowerPoint slide on projectors before the crowd describing several potential tax increases. Between applause, Manno read the options: Adding a higher tax bracket for income over $1 million, increasing the sales tax 1%, increasing corporate income taxes, implementing combined corporate reporting, and increasing the gas tax.
“These would represent the fix. We’d be done,” Manno said. “But the bad news is we’re unlikely to have enough votes in Annapolis to do just one of these.”
Economist Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress said that the biggest problem nationally is the lack of jobs. When people are unemployed, she said, they don’t pay taxes. And that means that revenues for the nation go down. The recent “experiment” of a tax cut for wealthy people, letting them keep their money to reinvest in the economy, failed miserably with few jobs created, Boushey said.
Meanwhile, Karen Dolan from the Institute for Policy Studies said the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the global war on terror have cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion. The talk in Washington is for the government to cut spending, and Dolan said studies have shown that combat spending does not create jobs.
Cutting military spending, she said, would be “smart because taking money from the military, rather than Social Security or Medicare, would have the impact of increasing U.S. employment,” Dolan said.