Sunday, April 10, 2011

Where Is Our President?

The long version of a letter to the president.

The majority of Americans who work have income which is taxed at 25% or above. The wealthy send their money to work, and receive income in the form of capital gains and dividends; that income is taxed at 15%. Which should be considered more valuable, income from people doing actual work, or income from money which is doing the work? Conservatives think that if you have to work for a living, your income should be taxed at a much higher rate.

Conservatives also think that budget deficits should be eliminated without raising taxes on the wealthy. To balance the budget in the absence of revenue increases, spending cuts must be made. Conservatives are proposing a large number of cuts which will hurt millions, many of whom are poor, disabled, sick or elderly.

We elected Barack Obama in the hopes that he would help reign in 30 years of fiscal irresponsibility, 30 years of attacks on the middle class, 30 years of national debt increases (except during the Clinton years), and 30 years of massive deregulation and defunding of agencies with oversight responsibilities. But instead of getting FDR, we are getting Hoover. Where is the bold rhetoric? Where is the standing up for principles? Where is the kind of leadership this country desparately needs in the face of massive and continuous efforts by conservatives to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us?

We need someone with a view which does not give corporations dominion over individuals; a view which values human rights, consumer safety, environmental protections, responsible and just use of the military, a safe and secure retirement system, living wages, healthcare reform. We need to see a leader with a view in which government is run by the people rather than special interest groups with almost limitless funds. We need to see a leader who protects individual rights while promoting the common welfare. Someone with a view that advocates an end to corruption in politics, an end to corporate welfare, and a sharing of the costs of government. A view that values fairness in economic policies and systems (fair trade rather than free trade, which has devastated the working class and moved most manufacturing jobs elsewhere). A view which does not insist that it has a monopoly on christian values, or that it is the standard bearer for the only correct religion (all others being products of Satan). A view which does not prohibit workers from banding together to protect themselves from exploitation. A view that social responsibility and individual responsibility are both necessary. A view which has given us unemployment benefits, public libraries, voting rights, a 5-day work week, child labor laws, desegregation, Social Security, health care for seniors, and environmental protections. A liberal and progressive view.

We need someone who is not going to agree to spending cuts without increases in revenue. Someone who will not try to balance the budget solely on the backs of the poor and less fortunate. Someone who does not equate the worth of an individual with how well they are at making money. The wealthy view people who are not prosperous as not having discipline and not being individually responsible. And they think that since the poor do not have discipline and individual responsibility, they are not moral, and so they deserve their poverty. The wealthy do not want to help people who they see as immoral, and who they see as taking what is rightfully theirs (the fruits of their labor). They do not have a sense of social responsibility, and they do not see that a market (which is how their individual responsibility is rewarded) without regulations and oversight is neither natural nor moral.

We need someone who is not going to cave in on Social Security. Social Security is not an entitlement! It has been paid for by the workers who are now or will be collecting benefits. It is entirely self-funded, except for last December's tax deal and except for administrative costs. And those administrative costs are much lower than they are for private retirement plans (the plans that disappear when companies go bankrupt or when financial crises cause Wall Street stocks to tumble). We need the payroll tax to be restored and we need the elimination of funding Social Security from general revenue, which is just a conservative strategy for eventually gutting Social Security.

We need someone who sees that a major reason for the rise in Medicare costs is the Bush $400 billion-plus Medicare prescription drug program. Written by the insurance companies and the drug companies, it bars the federal government from negotiating better prices while driving up drug costs and padding pharmaceutical company profits. We need the prescription drug program fixed. We do not need to cut health care for seniors.

What we don't need is a cut of $1.7 billion from the administrative budget for Social Security, which would result in as many as 500,000 people having their applications for disability, retirement, survivors and Medicare benefits significantly delayed. We don't need the elimination of meat and poultry inspectors that will result in more people suffering from food-borne illness. No to kicking 218,000 kids out of the Head Start program and laying off 55,000 Head Start instructors. No to a $5.7 billion cut reducing or eliminating Pell grants for 9.4 million low-income college students. No to termination of the one program that helps homeless veterans get off the streets and out of shelters. No to drastic cut-backs in funding for community health centers, denying primary health care to 11 million Americans. No to a cut of $405 million from the Community Services Block Grant Program; these grants provide emergency help for food, heat, housing and other very basic necessities of life for the poorest of the poor. No to a cut of $400 million from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

We don't need a Democratic president who buys into the conservative view. We have had 30 years of the conservative view. We need a president who will stand up for the values he espoused in his election campaign. We need a president who can articulate an alternative to the disasterous policies of the right, and who will be our last defense against greed run amok.

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