Rep. Barney Frank is ratcheting up his longstanding push to reduce federal defense spending with a series of town hall events in his Massachusetts congressional district atarting this weekend. And he is encouraging Occupy Wall Street and its sibling movements around the country to get involved.
"Cutting military spending is really essential if we are going to accomplish some of the things the Occupy movement wants to do in terms of fairness," Frank said in an interview Friday afternoon.
Military spending makes up more than 50 percent of total discretionary spending, and in turn discretionary spending—virtually all of the functions of government other than Social Security, Medicare and other programs in which spending is set by demand rather than annual budget negotiations—is about 40 percent of the total federal budget. That's why Frank says "we're in a zero-sum game": either cut military spending or see drastic cuts in other sectors of the budget, ranging from Social Security benefits to health care, from environmental protection to financial regulation.
This is where the Occupy movement cam make a difference, Frank said. "I think they underestimate the extent to which if they mobilize and deluge members of the House and Senate with opinion—they underestimate the impact it would have."
Frank adds that the same message of opposition needs to be heard by the White House, particularly by defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has come out strongly against defense spending cuts as the congressional deficit-reduction "super committee" works behind closed doors to come up with a deficit-reduction plan.
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"I'm very disappointed with Leon Panetta," Frank said. "He has been the mouthpiece for a viewpoint that is very surprising to me given his previous, more common-sense approach."
Frank suggests reminding President Obama, "We didn't elect you to stay in Iraq longer than George Bush wanted to."
The town hall events on defense spending sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank are scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, October 15 at the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park, New Bedford, Mass.; 2 p.m. Sunday, October 16 at the Mass Bay Community College Main Audtorium, Wellesley Hills, Mass.; and 2 p.m. Sunday, October 23 at the First Parish Church in Taunton, Mass.