Friday, March 04, 2005
the intersections of defense spending and my hometown
There's nothing like being immobolized on the couch, and bored to death with daytime tv, to give me time to catch up on reading a couple magazines (and blogging). In reading this recent issue of Mother Jones, I noticed a small piece in the article about Republican spending sprees "making your taxes disappear" about Bath Iron Works, the shipyard in my hometown of Bath, Maine. (this quote is not in the online shorter article)
Senator Collins (R-Maine) earmarked 99.4 million for work on an unrequested Destroyer for the Navy... The money will help keep Bath Iron Works shipyard in Maine, from going idle in 2006... As Collins says "even a year long gap in shipbuilding would be detrimental."
Okay, so I am clearly not a Republican, and I also clearly do not support the current occupation of Iraq, or the future invasion/occupation of any other countries. And I don't support massive defense spending while classrooms and schools across the country are underfunded, while people have no healthcare, or while elderly people can't afford their prescription drugs. I also loathe how spending like this is snuck into budgets.
But, I find myself conflicted when it comes to BIW. This article gives some overview of the possibility of BIW closing and what impact it might have on where I grew up. In sum, BIW is the largest employer in Maine, 6200 people are employed by BIW, and BIW gives Bath 4.4 million in taxes a year. Maine as a whole is pretty middle-lower income, many counties have serious economic problems, and most industrial jobs (save for some paper mills) have moved out. Much of the local employment (teaching, small industry, healthcare, retail etc...) also relies on the jobs supplied by Bath Iron Works.
Another perspective on the Maine economy from 1998:
"Maine's largest employer, Bath Iron Works, the recipient of an unprecedented $60 million state tax break last year, pumps millions of dollars into the economy and supports a host of smaller electronics and metals manufacturers in southern Maine."
Basically, my whole life growing up in Bath, I have been aware that if the shipyard that dominates my hometown shut down, things would get pretty bad in the area. Bath is mostly a "drive through" town for tourists and can't live on that alone.
So, I'm not going to try to figure out a solution to this. In all honesty, I believe BIW won't be able to hang on in the next couple years. What other jobs/industry will take its place? I can't imagine. Most people at BIW have been working there for decades and have a specific skill and trade. Things are just so much more complicated than being "against defense spending" or "against all Republicans." I understand what Senator Collins is doing- it might be sneaky and underhanded, and it shouldn't be allowed, but I understand where she is coming from.
posted by knit wit | 3/04/2005 05:28:00 PM