I'm a man of peace, a minister. The example of nonviolence set by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has guided my life. I even sign every letter, every email, with a single word: Peace.
But today, I'm so angry I can't find words angry enough to express it. I want to hit somebody, anybody. And for the life of me I can't understand why everyone doesn't feel the same way.
Our country is a mess. Millions of us are out of work. Millions more are working as hard as or harder than ever and have less and less to show for it. We're bogged down in a couple of wars we're not really sure we should be fighting and for 10 years we've been paying for them with borrowed money.
Meanwhile, the fortunate few at the top of the economic pyramid are getting richer than ever, more powerful than ever. Some have succeeded thanks to hard work and ingenuity -- good for them. But too many are hoarding their money or exporting jobs by the millions, taking advantage of cheap, overseas labor. They enjoy tax rates less than half as high as those paid by the wealthy in the 1950s and '60s and they whine at the mere suggestion that they should chip in a bit more to help out their country.
"Higher taxes kill jobs," they moan. "Your taxes have been low, historically low, for a long time now. How many jobs are you creating?" I wonder. "Higher taxes on the rich are class warfare," they say. "Seems like the super rich have already gone to war -- and they're winning," I answer.
Amid all this, our president and Congress now are unable to agree on a way for the country to keep paying its bills. They court an economic disaster that will make the "Great Recession" seem like a boom time.
President Obama speaks of a "balanced approach" to solving these problems, a mix of spending cuts and higher taxes. It sounds good, but I wonder why he won't fight for it. On Monday night, he made a persuasive case, then undercut it by acknowledging that he's willing to take a decidedly unbalanced package -- $2.7 trillion in spending cuts and no new tax revenue.
And then there are the Republicans. The Tea Party crowd talks casually about defaulting on our obligations, ignoring debts America already has promised to pay. Speaker Boehner proposes $3 trillion in spending cuts, with no new tax revenue. The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says his package would force draconian cuts in Social Security and Medicare for current retirees and "eviscerate the safety net for low-income children, parents, senior citizens and people with disabilities."
On Wall Street, that bastion of old-fashioned Republicanism, the credit raters at Standard & Poor's are warning that because Boehner's plan would require a new Congressional debate over raising the debt ceiling in just a few months, with the 2012 campaign in full swing, it may not preserve the nation's AAA bond rating. That, of course, would produce the economic disaster all in Washington claim they want to avoid.
And for what? So that multi-millionaires can exploit tax loopholes and pay taxes at lower rates, or even the same rate, as their maids and chauffeurs?
It's crazy. Why isn't everyone furious about it? Why did Obama have to ask people to call and write their members of Congress to demand something better? Why weren't people, millions of people, doing that already? Why aren't we lining up outside Congressional offices and filling up town hall meetings to raise Cain? How is it that every reputable poll agrees that a majority of Independents, Democrats, even Republicans believe we should cut the federal budget AND raise taxes on the rich but that no plan to do that now appears able to pass the Congress?
Damned if I know.
But I know that's got to change. And soon.
August 2 is just a week away.
Please join Common Cause in calling your member of Congress to demand that the budget is not balanced on the backs of average Americans and that the rich pay their fair share.
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