Yesterday was a perfect day for a protest in D.C. against Pentagon pork. Especially one with a giant inflatable pig! With the deadline for $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts hitting tomorrow, USAction, with the help of affiliates and allies, hosted a National Day of Action to Pull the Pork from the Pentagon.
From Philadelphia and Chicago, all the way to Boise, Idaho and Spokane, Washington -- all across the country, Americans rose up against our bloated Pentagon budget yesterday. And I wanted to be a part of the action.
In D.C. we picked Lockheed Martin, the world's largest defense contractor as our target because they lobby day in and day out to boost their profits on wasteful programs like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive in military history, because it has been plagued by cost overruns and delays and is a prime example for waste and abuse in the Pentagon. And just last week the Pentagon grounded the F-35 fighter jets because of yet another safety issue with the aircraft. So Lockheed seemed like the perfect target.
We met up at 4th and Virginia SW outside the lobbying offices of Lockheed Martin. There I met up with my fellow protesters who were bursting with excitement and pre-protest jitters. In hand, I brought two-dozen red velvet piggy cupcakes that I spent the whole night before baking. One girl donned a pig mask and held up Lockheed Martin's sign. And another elderly woman knitted by hand a graph of the U.S. discretionary budget, with more than 50 percent going to the Pentagon. We were ready to get the show on.
From the beginning, there were police. But we weren't afraid. They were actually quite easygoing and had a laugh at our piggy escapades.
At 12:20 pm we blew up the giant inflatable pig, which seemed much larger than 20 feet tall as the original recruiter email claimed. Immediately, we got the attention we craved.
As we marched and chanted, I could feel the excitement in the air. It wasn't the largest action I've been to, but it was certainly the most energetic.
The march was followed by speakers including USAction's Alan Charney, Stacey Long of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Rick Hind from Greenpeace USA, Judith LeBlanc of Peace Action and Debbie Weinstein of the Coalition on Human Needs. They spoke of the need of protecting our priorities, like education, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, instead of lining the pockets of Pentagon contractor CEOs.
But the event in D.C. with the giant inflatable pig was just one event of many yesterday. In Nashua, New Hampshire, they protested outside Sen. Kelly Ayotte's office, who has fought to cut Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare to pay for Pentagon waste. In Bangor, Maine, they delivered signatures and pulled pork sandwiches to Senate offices to represent the pork-laden Pentagon budget. And in Columbus, Ohio they held a press event featuring former Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
All around it was a very successful action, and it couldn't have come at a better time because tomorrow is the day when all the cards will fall and Congress must make a choice on what to do with the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts. Will they cut the waste and abuse that is rife in the Pentagon budget -- or will they balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable?
We elected our leaders to balance the budget in a sensible way, not with a meat cleaver, but with a scalpel. And the cuts coming down the wire will be a disaster for all Americans. We deserve better.
But it is unconscionable that Congress would continue to waste billions of dollars a year on outdated and unnecessary weapons systems like the F-35, while asking everyone else to make do with less.
We've heard the stories. Two thousand tanks rotting in the California desert, contractors selling hammers and bolts at 5,000 times their market price and countless stories of Pentagon contractors misallocating millions of dollars on weapons we never asked for and didn't need. In a country that spends more on it's military than the next 15 countries combined, I cannot think of a better way to find savings in the budget than in our vast military industrial complex.
When I spoke out yesterday, I spoke out as a daughter who cares for an ailing and disabled father living on Medicare and Social Security, and a young twenty-something who faces steep student loan payments that eat away at my paycheck every month. I may be young, but I'm old enough to know what's at stake. And I'm old enough to know when the government is giving me a run for my money.
I'm not sure how much impact our action will have on Congress. But at least I can find solace in knowing that when the time came, I spoke out along with all the wonderful people at USAction. Until then, I'll keep trying to change the world, one delicious piggy cupcake at a time.