Dorchester ‘Tax Day’ Rally Challenges Military Budget

This article originally appeared in the 2019 MAPA Summer newsletter

Vernon Walker Rev. Vernon Walker addresses the crowd at Tax Day Rally

Not long ago, Boston Mayor Walsh addressed a meeting of housing advocates in Dorchester. Recognizing the precarious situation of many Dorchester renters but citing the limited options available to address the crisis, the mayor complained that his hands were tied because “there is no federal money for housing.” Why is that?

On Wed., April 17 – “Tax Day” in Massachusetts – Dorchester residents gathered with community organizations, unions, environmental groups, and peace advocates to demand federal budget priorities that address the urgent needs of our neighborhoods. Newly?elected US Rep. Ayanna Pressley joined the protest with a stirring speech in support of the Tax Day message, as did State Sen. Jamie Eldridge.

Nick Rabb of the Sunrise Movement and Vignesh Ramachandran of 350 Mass pointed out that cutting unnecessary military spending would be a great way to fund the effort to stop climate change. Prendee Knight of the Mass. Alliance of HUD Tenants and Judy Burnett of City Life/Vida Urbana proposed to cut the military budget to pay for housing. Ben Day of Mass. Care pointed out that trimming the military budget would free up sufficient funds to pay for single payer healthcare nationwide.

Maryellen Kurkulos of MAPA, Vernon Walker of Interfaith Worker Justice, Hayat Imam of Dorchester People for Peace, Robert Major of Veterans for Peace, Mary Regan of New England War Tax Resistance, and Joseph Gerson of American Friends Service Committee broke down the ruinous cost of the military budget.

Representative Ayanna Pressly

US Rep. Ayanna Pressley speaks to the Tax Day rally at Uphams Corner, Dorchester.

After a rally and march, Rev. Edwin Johnson of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church hosted a dinner and welcomed the group. Kevin Peterson, Jared Hicks, and Kathy Paul also spoke.

The proportion of federal resources for housing, education, environmental, and worker protection has been shrinking for many years, while funding for wars and other Pentagon spending has risen to record levels. Meanwhile, the recent Republican taxcuts, which mostly benefit the wealthy and corporations, have further restricted federal funds available for urgent social needs.

President Trump’s proposed 2020 spending plan would only make those trends worse. With this budget, Trump earmarks fully $750 billion for military-related spending, or 62 cents out of every taxpayer dollar. When the cost of nuclear weapons in the Energy Department, ourmilitarized Department ofHomeland Security, veterans benefits and interest payments from past war borrowing are added, the total comes to around $1 trillion for “defense.”

That leaves just 31 cents for all the rest: education, job training, community economic development, housing, safe drinking water, clean air, health and science research, and infrastructure projects. The simple fact is that wars, military spending, and tax cuts for the rich are starving our communities of the resources they need.

Proponents of higher military spending cite the need to “defend our country.” But are redundant and costly new weapons systems necessary? Do more than 800 US military bases in over 100 countries and endless wars in faraway places actually add to our security at home? Arguably, these misguided policies create more enemies than they defeat.

 

—Jeff Klein is a Board member of Mass. Peace Action and is active with Dorchester People for Peace.