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Rep. Charles Rangel

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Who Else Is Mad As Hell?

Posted: 11/16/11 07:50 PM ET

In the City of New York, law enforcement has stepped up its vigilance on the protesters at Occupy Wall Street. We are hearing a lot of comments as to whether or not their freedom of speech and right to protest are being attacked. Of course we do have a constitutional question of the protesters' rights to "Occupy", but no one can challenge the fact that their movement has concentrated on addressing the economic injustice of the "1% versus the 99%".

Some may call this class warfare. If it is, then it is the 1 percent that is declaring war. It is a very serious national problem when so few people control so much of the wealth in our country. Such inequality forces the government to reduce its services not just to the struggling middle class, but to the poorest of the poor.

From an economic point of view, it just does not make sense to jeopardize the fiscal health of our country in terms of the ever-increasing deficit without recognizing that everyone has to make a shared sacrifice -- including the millionaires who are paying the lowest tax in recent history. In order for the very rich to continue to be successful they should want a strong America, not an America where one out of every five children is born into poverty.

Aside from the economic argument, there has been a vacuum in our country for people who have yet to speak out in support of the protesters, but more importantly, have not spoken out against the moral issues that are involved in this great debate.

Newspapers may call it "entitlements"; Republicans may say "We won't increase taxes on the rich." But so few in the spiritual community -- whether Catholic or Protestant, Jew or Muslim -- have yet to come out and call it anything at a time when their voices are most needed.

The issue that we are currently dealing with in Congress is not about entitlements, nor merely about Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. No, it is about the moral mandate to protect the 'lesser of our brothers and sisters,' to give aid to the sick, to help the aged, and to care for the health of our infants. The rich have a moral responsibility to share at least an equitable part of their wealth to prevent the misery and the pain that come from viciously slashing the social budget of the United States of America.

Even worse than ignoring the needs of the growing number of homeless veterans and working people and those who have lost their savings, their homes, their healthcare, their ability to keep their kids in college, and their self-esteem is the loss of hope by so many Americans that their country will never turn its back on those who cannot politically and economically protect themselves.

It would have been nice if the inconveniences caused by the Occupy protesters were not necessary in the first place. However, their message is clearly necessary: Currently 14 million Americans are unemployed; 9.2 million additional Americans are underemployed since this recession began; in the past year two million college graduates under the age of 30 have jobs that do not require a college degree; and nearly 5 percent of Americans work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

The whole idea that this 12-member Supercommittee holds in its hands the security and future of America's economic stability is wrong and makes no sense. I do not see how 12 people can be given this responsibility when Congress as a whole cannot even come together to pass parts of President Obama's jobs plan that would help our teachers, first responders and over 13 percent of America's veterans who are unemployed.

The moral standards that have guided us throughout the founding of our great nation are being eroded and the American people are losing hope. What America stands for is now being threatened. Right now the Occupy protesters are leading the moral struggle on behalf of the 99 percent in our country.

This is why the spiritual community needs to raise their voices and lend moral support to those fighting the economic inequality we are faced with. Our spiritual leaders have spoken on many issues in the past, yet this great injustice, which is hurting millions of people, hardly gets the attention compared to issues on abortion or same-sex marriage.

While there are a handful of religious leaders showing support for the Occupy protesters, I believe more should recognize their crucial role as moral conscience in our communities and provide guidance to these brave Americans who are simply trying to right a wrong.

 

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