On Friday, October 21st, the “Fund Our Communities” coalition met with Representative
Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) about budget priorities. The Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition is a member of “Fund Our Communities,” so I joined a group of about fifteen for the meeting.
It was a great opportunity. As most readers know, Van Hollen is in a powerful position to affect federal budget priorities as a member of the so-called “Super Committee,” tasked with producing legislation reducing federal spending by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. While we were waiting for Van Hollen, his staffer brought up the Washington Post report that Van Hollen had made a call to the County Council before a “Fund Our Communities” vote was scuttled by County Council on October 10. The staffer said that was misrepresented and they had been trying to get a retraction/correction from the paper. The staff person was only calling to get a status report, not to weigh in on the matter. We asked his office to put out a press release saying that Van Hollen favored letting the measure (a non-binding resolution telling Congress to cut military, fund our communities) come to a vote, but they weren’t sure they would be able do that. When Van Hollen came in, he also was at pains to say he would never tell the County Council how to vote when the issue is telling Congress what to do.
While the county council issue got a fair amount of discussion, the main point of the meeting was to tell Van Hollen, as a member of the Super Committee, that he should fight for cuts to the military budget and protect human needs. Though he assured us he is with us, there are reasons to be concerned — e.g., a 43% Peace Action voting record in 2010, a 46% record in 2009 — as coalition leader Jean Athey pointed out.
After about half an hour, Van Hollen left. I got a chance to tell the staffer about MCCRC, and why we are part of Fund Our Communities — war always means a problem for civil liberties, which he heartily agreed with. I urged him to look at DHS for further cuts, and hope he’ll have a look at the great calculator developed by the New Priorities Project. Have a look yourself, for that matter — you’ll see that Montgomery County alone has sent nearly a third of a billion dollars ($317.8 million) to the Department of Homeland Security alone — for dubious expenditures like fusion centers, surveillance of innocent American activists, and the bag search machinery used to abridge our civil liberties and freedoms in the WMATA Metro system. Among other things, that money could buy…
- 44,434 People Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for One Year OR
- 4,468 Police or Sheriff’s Patrol Officers for One Year
Wouldn’t that make more sense?