Commentary: ‘Tax Day’ rally, march set for Uphams Corner today

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 him to address the crisis, the mayor complained that his hands were tied because “there is no federal money for housing.”

This may not be the only cause for the lack of affordable housing in our neighborhoods, but it is certainly a factor.  Where cities like Boston once were able to build public housing and had regulations to limit rent increases, moderate-income tenants are now chasing a shrinking number of section 8 housing grants that reward landlords with inflated “market-rate” rents.

The proportion of federal resources for housing, education, environmental, and worker protection have been shrinking for many years, while funding for wars and other Pentagon spending has risen to record levels. Meanwhile, the recent Republican tax cuts, predominantly benefiting 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, our militarized Department of Homeland 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.  All of these face actual funding cuts in Trump’s proposed budget. (Social Security and Medicare, which are paid for out of their own taxes and trust funds, do not add one penny to the federal deficit.)

When communities demand more spending on what they actually need, like better schools, universal medical coverage, or a Green New Deal to address climate change and provide good jobs, the message from establishment elites is always: “It costs too much.”  

The simple fact is that wars, military spending, and tax cuts for the rich are starving our communities of the resources they need. It doesn’t have to be that way.

On Wed., April 17 – “Tax Day” in Massachusetts – Dorchester residents will gather in Uphams Corner at 4:30 p.m. with community organizations, unions, environmental, and peace advocates to demand budget priorities that support the urgent needs of our neighborhoods.

A government budget is a statement of values as well as a spending plan.  By that standard, recent federal budgets have been moral failures.   Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., put it this way 62 years ago in an address at Riverside Church in New York exactly one year before his murder: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Trump’s proposal, with its record military spending increases and cuts to everything else, would only embed the harm more deeply.

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.

The Dorchester “Tax Day” event will begin at 4:30 p.m. from the Uphams Corner Health Center, 415 Columbia Rd. Organizers plan to march along Columbia Road to St. Mary’s Church, 14 Cushing Ave., for a meal at 6:30 p.m.

Dorchester resident Jeff Klein, a retired union president, is an activist with Dorchester People for Peace and Massachusetts Peace Action, two of the organizations sponsoring the April 17 Tax Day event.

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