Barney Frank ’61 shared his opinions on topics ranging from government spending to gay rights in a speech punctuated by light-heartedness last night in the Winthrop Junior Common Room.
Frank, a past resident of Winthrop House and the current House Representative for Massachusetts’s 4th congressional district, called the U.S.’s current spending “hypocritical.”
According to Frank, the excessive military spending—which he said does not always successfully achieve its goal of increasing U.S. security—has crippled the government’s ability to scale back debt and invest money in other important areas.
For example, Frank cited the approximately 10,000 non-combat troops currently stationed in Iraq and the $10 million cost that he said they incur.
“Why are we doing this?” he asked. “Bring them home.”
Frank identified the subsidization of Brazilian cotton—an effort to protect American cotton growers that he said drains approximately $150 million per year—as another source of unnecessary spending.
He added that he felt the government’s priority should not be tax cuts.
“I have never seen a tax cut put out a fire,” Frank said. “There are things that are absolutely essential to us that we can only do if we come together and pay taxes.”
Frank, who became the second openly gay member of the House of Representatives in 1987, also spoke about his support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.
Frank voiced his support for the return of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Harvard, despite concerns from students and activists about a policy barring transgender individuals from military service.
“I would reinstate ROTC at Harvard,” he said. “If you hold out on perfection, your ability to achieve full success diminishes.”
Frank also discussed Obama’s recent decision to stop supporting the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act—a bill which banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages—attributing the reversal to greater public attention to the details of the act.
“It’s one thing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act when [there is] a low level of scrutiny,” Frank said. “It’s another to go to the heightened level of scrutiny and [still] say that the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional.”
Frank said he was optimistic about the significant progress in LGBT rights since his undergraduate years.
“When I was at Harvard, I didn’t know any gay people. None of us told each other that we were gay,” Frank said. “[Obama’s recent reversal] is a sign ... that the fight for legal equality for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders is on the verge of being won more quickly than I thought.”