I never expected I'd be called upon to write an open letter to the Speaker of the House because he used my words in a misleading way. And I certainly never expected that letter to include detailed descriptions of the plots and weaponry used in the Star Wars movies. But here we are.
In a move that some of us have anticipated since early 2009, the Republicans are now running to both the left and right of the White House on jobs, emphasizing populist themes while pushing pro-corporate policies. As part of that campaign, Speaker of the House John Boehner's latest blog post quoted a series of progressive writers and organizations who have criticized the White House's overly cautious jobs approach. (Or course, we know that most politicians' posts and tweets are written by their staff, and we've all learned why that can be a good idea.)
The Speaker's post quoted me out of context in exactly the same way movie reviews are sometimes quoted in movie ads. (The review: "This turkey gave me a terrific headache."The poster: "Terrific!") The following letter will hopefully clear the record.
Dear Mr. Speaker:
In a post entitled "Dem Unrest on Jobs Looms Over 'Recovery Summer' Anniversary," your website reads:
"If the president won't do something about jobs, who will?," the Campaign for America's Future, a leading progressive activist group, asked last week, adding: "it seems as if the White House is from Mars and the middle class is from Venus."
While it's always gratifying to be noticed, Mr. Speaker, that wasn't actually an official statement by the Campaign for America's Future, where I have a fellowship. It's the opening sentence to a piece in the Huffington Post and the Our Future website. And I would like to respectfully point out, Sir, that it skips the following sentence:
"And Republicans act like they're from the Death Star, patrolling the economy in their Imperial Cruisers directing laser blasts at every job initiative they can find."
That's hardly what I'd call a ringing endorsement of GOP policy, Mr. Speaker.
Most people would immediately recognize this reference to Star Wars, where the Galactic Empire's planet-sized space station traveled the universe destroying rebel planets and Darth Vader's minions led their attacks on the rebels from Imperial Cruisers armed with superlasers.
I would like to assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I don't really equate the Republican Party and its leadership with Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, and the other leaders of that fictional evil empire. But what the Republican Party wants to do is the economic equivalent of a laser blast. Many of us have been frustrated with the Administration at times on over its approach to the jobs issue, but the Republican approach would be catastrophic.
I don't know if you're a science fiction fan, but I was hooked on the stuff as a kid. When I was six yearts old I even "wrote" and illustrated space stories for my immigrant grandmother's birthday. ("Very nice," she said. "Have you ever thought about becoming a lawyer?") I looked down on Star Wars when it came out, for reasons comprehensible only to other young sci-fi addicts not long out of their teens: I knew too many of the cultural references, was embarrassed by the corniness of the plot and characters, and thought it wasn't true enough to the physical reality.
But that film series captured the public's imagination because it dealt with right and wrong in a three-dimensional way. Life, the films seemed to say in the end, is more complicated than just 'good guys' and 'bad guys.'
So is the economy. Your blog post promotes the Republican Party's "Plan for America's Job Creators" and its "measures designed to remove government obstacles to private-sector growth." But not every rich person or profitable company is a job "creator." Some are job destroyers, like the companies that ship jobs overseas or the banks that are once again capturing the record levels of corporate profits they enjoyed before the financial crisis -- squeezing out profits for job-creating employers and refusing to lend to stimulate the economy.
Tax cuts for big business haven't worked. Even with two trillion dollars in cash on hand, they're not hiring -- because people don't have jobs or strong enough wages to buy their products. Your "job creator" plan would drive unemployment much higher by pushing free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.
The budget passed by your Congress strips funds for police jobs, disaster relief workers, and dozens of other types of employment. And your party's eagerness to deregulate Wall Street all but guarantees another crisis and even more joblessness in the future.
A smart jobs policy would target our economy's real job creators. They're the small- to medium-sized businesses that hire workers, along with the manufacturers and other productive companies based in this country. It would recognize that we'll only have real job growth when unemployed and under-earning people have money in their pockets to purchase goods and services.
More tax giveaways for the wealthy and big corporations, won't do it, Mr. Speaker. And the deregulation your party is pushing will lead us into another disaster. Remember, we tried it your way once and the results were disastrous.
But though I'd rather not be misquoted, please don't misunderstand the Star Wars reference. We're all Americans, and we're all in this together. It would be a great thing if the House, Senate, and White House can agree on a genuine program of government investment in economic growth and job creation.
So thank you for using my words, sir, even if it was done selectively. May your staff keep reading all the progressive groups quoted in that blog post, since they'll find some good ideas there. May you and your party will find a way to work constructively with the Senate and White House on job creation.
And as you do, may the Force be with you.
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