Maine politicians and officials should be working to protect and promote the interests and rights of its citizens. However, as a recent trial and pending legislation in Maine have clearly shown, some of these politicians and officials seem far more interested in advancing the wealth and power of an already extremely wealthy and powerful corporation.

That corporation is General Dynamics, one of the world’s largest so-called “defense” contractors, and owner of Bath Iron Works. The pending legislation is a move to give General Dynamics another $60 million in tax breaks, which will be paid for by the people of Maine.

The trial was that of the Aegis 9, who were arrested April 1, 2017, while peacefully protesting  — along with others — BIW’s public “christening,” or cerebration, of a newly built Navy Aegis destroyer.

There were many good reasons for protesting the celebration. One of those reasons is the ship’s cost — close to $2 billion. The U.S. military is already, by far and away, the deadliest in the world. The U.S. spends more than the next eight largest national defense budgets in the world — combined! When is enough, enough?

Then there are the exorbitant costs on the nation’s environment resulting from the government’s addiction to war-making: The Pentagon’s vast carbon emissions which are contributing mightily to climate disruption and the Navy’s assaults on life in the oceans from their reckless use of sonar, to name but a few.

And then there is the obvious toll of the U.S. government’s over-the-top militarism on any real prospects for a more peaceful world.

For all those reasons, the Aegis 9 chose to put our First Amendment rights to use to voice our opposition to the public celebration of this destroyer of lives. Although all we did was stand with our protest signs roughly 10 feet in front of the BIW entrance gate, and people were able to easily walk around us, and some did so, the police, at BIW’s behest, ordered us to leave. We were arrested when we refused the order and charged with criminal trespass.

At the trial’s conclusion, the judge upheld our constitutional rights, stating that the Bath police department had been improperly “outsourced to BIW,” and that because the Bath police order to leave BIW’s property during this public event was based solely on BIW’s objection to our lawful political expression, the order was, therefore, unlawful. In the end, justice prevailed when Justice Billings granted the motion to acquit all of the defendants.

So that was the trial.

The pending legislation is LD 1781, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer DeChant, D-Bath, which would provide General Dynamics with another $60 million in tax breaks through the next 20 years. Since 1997, this same corporation has already received more than $200 million in state and local tax breaks (though employment at BIW has decreased considerably since that time) as well as a huge corporate tax break from the Trump administration with the recent passage of the federal tax bill. Yet it is once again looking for a handout from the taxpayers of this cash-strapped state.

General Dynamics is claiming to need this additional tax break to keep BIW competitive. But a look at the facts will show this claim to be false. BIW is one of just two companies that build destroyers for the Navy, and it received more federal contract dollars in 2017 than in any year since 2011 — more than $2 billion. It would seem that BIW is doing just fine.

A quick look at General Dynamics finances will show it is also doing quite well, to put it mildly. Its annual revenues are estimated at $31 billion — more than four times Maine’s entire annual budget. Between 2013 and 2016, with plenty of available cash on hand, General Dynamics management spent $9.4 billion buying back its own stock. And in 2016, its CEO took home $21 million. Unlike so many in Maine, this corporation is not hurting for money.

Shouldn’t Maine’s politicians and officials be working to protect and promote the interests and rights of its citizens, not making them fund, through their hard-earned cash, more corporate welfare for General Dynamics?

Russell Wray of Hancock volunteers with Citizens Opposing Active Sonar Threats (COAST), and is an associate member of Veterans For Peace, and one of the Aegis 9.

Russell Wray