Thursday, October 13, 2011

National Conservatives Cheer On Lockheed In Montgomery County // Defense Lobbyists Save MoCo From Advisory Dagger

Is maintaining funding for the Iraq War part of Montgomery's economic development strategy? 

At the same time that he derides Occupy Wall Street protestors, Conservative Washington Post columnist George Will is now cheering on Lockheed Martin's recent victory in Montgomery County.

George Will is a famed national mouthpiece and a bit of a maverick, but his rantings against Obama and labor place him firmly on the right. As liberal group Media Matters recently noted: "Will himself once opposed the decision striking down maximum hour laws. Now, Will has turned to attacking business regulation more generally."

Maryland Juice previously covered this controversy, which arises from a Montgomery County Council resolution calling on Congress to devote less money to the military (and more money to social services). The bill was sponsored by a majority of the Council, but some members withdrew support after lobbying by Lockheed Martin boosters. Let's be clear, this bill really has nothing to do with County jobs or Lockheed's presence in Montgomery County. But the County Executive called it a "dagger pointed directly at the heart of Montgomery County."

Progressive activists who spent months organizing around the bill's introduction were upset and organized a protest/press conference this week. Busboys & Poets owner Andy Shallal responded by pulling the plug on possible Silver Spring and Bethesda stores. And now the resolution's backers get this indignity from Mr. Will:
Tahrir Square Envy also motivates America’s Progressive Autumn, the left’s emulation of the Arab Spring. Of course, some lagoons of advanced thinking, such as Montgomery County — it is a government workers’ dormitory contiguous to Washington — were progressive before OWS’s drum(circle)beat became progressivism’s pulse. The Montgomery County town of Takoma Park is a “nuclear-free zone,” meaning it has no truck with nuclear weapons. 
Responding to peace activists, some Montgomery County Council members sponsored a resolution to instruct Congress to slash defense spending. The idea died as Virginia was inviting the county’s second-largest private-sector employer, Lockheed Martin, to move across the Potomac. To OWS, this proves the power of the plutocracy. To the Tea Party, it proves the virtue of federalism.
You can email George Will thoughts about his piece at:

Maryland Juice does not usually spend too much time on local resolutions to Congress. Typically, I think they are good organizing vehicles, but they are usually too symbolic for my tastes. This particular situation, however, is a bit disappointing for a number of reasons. It is dejecting to consider that:
1) the Republicans have succeeded in gutting our federal tax base
2) leading to less federal aid to states,
3) leading to less State aid for counties
4) leading to service cuts for County residents and
5) finally leading to infighting among County liberals (ie: Democrats taking heat for cuts to public employee unions)
The logic above has been stated by many a Democrat -- including in Montgomery County. But that logic is undermined when we simultaneously ask Congress to maintain the same spending priorities, is it not? It is even worse when we poison our own well by lobbying against ourselves (ie: County officials lobbying for regressive taxes or a smaller tax base in Annapolis). But even after witnessing all that -- are we really now arguing that Lockheed is so integral to our local economy that we can't criticize the war(s) or Pentagon waste? If that's how you feel, doesn't the reverse also hold true?

If criticizing Congress' overspending on war is a 
"dagger through Montgomery County's heart,"
is more war food for Montgomery County's soul?

The real indignity is that now we can't even pass purely symbolic resolutions because they upset corporations and their lobbyists. No wonder that progressives and Democrats feel so dejected across America. Is this where we're at? Big businesses win on taxes, on campaign finance reform, on Obama's religion, and now on symbolic local anti-war resolutions?

I'm also curious to know whether Lockheed thinks that anything would've changed in the world from the passage of this resolution? Obviously Congress isn't going to listen to a municipality's opinion -- but that doesn't mean these resolutions serve no purpose. They are outlets for ordinary citizens to channel their desire to do something onto bodies and officials that will actually listen and respond -- nevermind the effectiveness of the action. In that light, the passage of such resolutions is a gesture, not a strategy. Consider it the same as an aggrieved party wanting to simply "have their day in court."

Getting back to basics, however, I fail to see how any advisory measure could be a dagger through any heart. I suppose this shouldn't be too surprising, since that statement came from someone who likes other symbolic policies. Oy, my native Montgomery. *shaking my head* 

At the end of the day though, I should also call out Lockheed here more than anyone else. Nothing real was at stake, and yet their lobbying team felt the need to over-zealously stamp out a feel-good resolution. Why they felt the need to put good Democratic lawmakers in a tough spot on a non-binding, symbolic resolution is beyond me -- but I hope they're using up their chits. Either way, this is not very neighborly behavior.

Good Corporate Welfare: Also, can anyone explain to me why the County seems to use all of its corporate welfare dollars to pay companies to stay here instead of to bribe new companies over?  Hmm. I don't like most types of corporate welfare, but if we're going to pay for it anyways, shouldn't we at least ask for it to be done well? Ie: shouldn't corporate welfare/tax credit/and DED dollars be prioritized toward net job growth before hypothetical job retention (ie: shouldn't we first try to create new jobs before paying for existing jobs just because someone raised the Virginia monster)?

P.S. How could we have $450,000 in tax breaks for Lockheed every year, but not come up with a few thousand to Save Silver Spring's Fenton Street Market?

P.P.S. I sometimes mention my employer, Demand Progress, and I think this is another opportune moment. The current Executive Director is from Potomac, MD and was a classmate of mine at Whitman High School. He later went on to serve in the Rhode Island House, where he introduced a resolution blasting defense company Textron for bribing Saddam Hussein's government. Textron was headquartered in his District. The sky did not fall. Remember, these are advisory resolutions. The resistance to them by industry lobbyists is pro-forma (and if it isn't -- then maybe it is time for the company to hire a new lobbyist?).

1 comment:

  1. I'd be surprised if Lockheed Martin actually lobbied hard against the measure. The people fighting hardest against it seemed to politicians concerned about the business climate like Leggett. If LM lobbied against the resolution then it was a dumb move, since the resolution would have done little harm. Sure, they sent a lobbyist, but wouldn't you if you were a topic of debate in a county and two states? Try to understand their concern. Also try to understand Leggett and O'Malley's concerns too. The resolution was rooted in an ideology (it was pushed for by an anti-war group) and ideologically driven people can be pretty hostile towards companies they disagree with. Lockheed had the right to be concerned over what might follow given the potential for ideological fervor... fewer tax breaks than other companies get, or no consideration in zoning issues, or public rhetoric targeting them. County and state pols panicked when they realized how an ideological tilt - not just a resolution - could scare away such a high profile employer. And it's not just about the 4000 LM jobs. It's about the prestige of having a major company's HQ in the county. You can't even imagine how bad it would be for the county's image to lose LM to Virginia.