Who gets the bill?

Dear Congress:

There is a $24 billion bill to pay for the government shutdown and the fight over the debt ceiling.

We, the people, would like to know to whom we should send the bill.

Do we send it to all of you, who refused to do your jobs?

Do we send it to the House of Representatives, which passed arcane rules so that only the Speaker of the House John Boehner or House Majority Leader Eric Cantor could hold a vote to re-open the government?

Do we send it to Sen. Ted Cruz, who somehow thinks that he’s won some sort of victory while at the same time costing us TWENTY-FOUR BILLION DOLLARS?

We, the people, did not want the government shut down.

We, the people – or at least, those of us who understood from the get-go that raising the debt ceiling was not giving the government permission to spend more money wildly, but rather meant that this nation could pay the bills for spending that Congress already approved – are not amused.

No, we are not.

We do not elect you, members of Congress, to go to Washington to act like 2-year-olds throwing temper tantrums.

We send you there to … wait for it … work!

And these past few weeks, you, the members of Congress, have not done your jobs.

Instead, you have traded pot-shots, you have made ridiculous claims, you have ignored the very basics of how to repeal a law, and overall, you have showed that in general, you are not interested in doing your jobs.

Instead, you have run up a $24 billion bill that you are refusing to even acknowledge, much less pay.

And now there are some of you threatening to do this all over again come the new year.

All because some of you can’t get your way.

Mr. Cruz, the Republican Senator from Texas, apparently flunked civics in school, because he still believes he can hold the nation hostage until he gets rid of the Affordable Care Act. I’m not certain why he wants to do away with this, except for the fact that, oh, wait, his state is one of the worst in caring for its poorest people.

Perhaps he, and others who believe as he does, need to be told again: Congress passed the ACA. The President signed it into law. The nation then re-elected the President, rejecting the man who claimed he would, by executive order, undo the act. The Supreme Court then upheld the law.

What part of “it is the law” do these people not understand?

Is the problem that this act will benefit the poorest people, the ones who do not have health insurance right now, and whose employers cannot, or will not, provide health insurance for them? Or is the problem that you, the members of Congress elected to serve the people of this nation, do not care for 45 million of those people?

Either way, please realize this: The Affordable Care Act is the law. Deal with it.

And stop running up bills that no one is prepared to pay.

Because there is a $24 billion bill that needs to be paid.

Who gets it?

Who will pay?

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Dear NRA …

Dear NRA:

I know that these last days have been difficult for you as an association, and as one of the most powerful lobbies in this country. I know you do not support the actions of Adam Lanza, and that all of you who work for the NRA, and all of your members, are in mourning for the loss of 20 children, six teachers, Adam Lanza’s mother, and even Adam himself.

But you have not said a thing since Friday last. Not one word. No condemnation. No grieving. No shock. No horror. (Updated: The NRA released a short statement mere minutes ago … read it below. The NRA is promising to offer “meaningful contributions  to help make sure this never happens again.” Details will be released on Friday. Until then, my suggestions stand.)

I get it – anything you say could be misconstrued. Defending the right to own weapons would make you look like cads at best.

And you are under attack right now. Even some of your strongest supporters are saying this gun culture has gone too far.

So staying silent may seem like your only option right now.

But it’s not.

I have another.

I am wondering, and dreaming, and praying, that you – the National Rifle Association – take all of the goodness of your work and apply it to protecting our communities.

I am wondering what it would look like if you – the National Rifle Association, which teaches, I believe, more gun safety classes than any other organization in the country – if you were to take the lead in changing our gun culture.

What if you were the ones who said, “No one needs an automatic weapon. No one needs an extra-large capacity magazine. No one should find it easier to get a gun than it is to get a driver’s license. No one should be able to buy as many guns as they want, when they want”?

What if you were to lead the campaign in this country to get at least some of hundreds of millions of guns off our streets? What if you were the ones to buy back these weapons, and then destroy them?

What if you were the ones to take all your lobbying money and power, and push – really, really hard – to reinstate the ban on assault rifles?

What if you were the ones who called for stricter licensing, for testing, for mandatory waiting periods, for limits on purchases, and for a special tax on ammunition (even if it’s not for all the ammunition, so that hunters in particular would not be taxed)?

What if, instead of standing by silently, apparently in the hopes that no one will think about you right now, you were the ones to lead a campaign entitled something like, “Enough!” or “No more!” – and were to offer to work with police departments to make sure that licensing and testing took place? (You could even be the testers and licensers – talk about privatizing government work!)?

What if you were the ones to put your considerable weight behind measures that guarantee the right to own weapons, but not the right to own anything you damned well want, right now, even if what you want was created solely to kill human beings?

What if you were the ones to step up safety campaigns? Call for more usage of gun locks? Call for the end of sales of cop-killing bullets? Said that weapons like the AR-15, the Bushmaster, which were created for the military, properly belonged only in the hands of the military and law enforcement agencies?

What if you were the ones who stopped saying, “Nothing can be done.” “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” “The Second Amendment guarantees the rights of citizens to bear guns.” “We need more guns in schools … and churches … and stores … so we can protect ourselves.” “We need to arm principals and school-teachers.” etc., etc., and instead were to say, “There is something that can be done, and we, the NRA, are going to put our full power and might behind getting that done.”?

And what if you were the ones who, instead of going after members of Congress for not supporting all your stances, were to support those who want what is best for the safety of our country?

Wouldn’t that all be astonishing? And wouldn’t all of that do more to honor the victims not only of Newtown, CT, but of every place in which gun violence has ripped communities apart?

Heck, if you were to do all that, I would become a member!

And I’d tell all my friends to become members as well.

Because then you would be one very fine organization, demonstrating your concerns for the community ever so much better than you do right now.

Are you listening?

Sincerely,

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley

(A concerned and grieving citizen who so much wants this world to be a better – and safer – place to live.)

• • •

Tuesday afternoon’s statement from the NRA:

“The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown.

“Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.

“The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.

“The NRA is planning to hold a major news conference in the Washington, DC area on Friday, December 21.

“Details will be released to the media at the appropriate time.”

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Paxil

Sigh.

For some reason, the bigwigs in Washington Do. Not. Seem. To. Get. It.

They are concerned with scoring points, with making sure “their” side “wins,” with “defeating” the other side.

What they are not concerned about is the American people. You know … us. The folks whom the bigwigs are supposed to serve.

Actually, it's NOT the economy, stupid!

We, it seems, are not part of any equation for solving the financial crisis confronting this country.

Well, “we” as in, those of us who are in the middle class or the lower class, or who, alas, actually live in poverty.

If we were part of the equation, then some of these dingbat ideas under discussion in Washington would never have seen the light of day.

I’m talking about the idea of extending the retirement age – again. Only white, privilege males who receive the best health care in the world would think this is a good idea.

The rest of us? The ones who work in factories or stores, who physically labor, who are the grunts of the work force? Who spend our time outside in all the elements? Who climb up and down ladders, or tote heavy items, or deliver things that have been ordered online?

Please. Our bodies break down a whole heck of lot earlier and easier than do the ones of so-called leaders who work, yes, but do not labor.

Every sane study shows that upper-income white males with marvelous health care indeed can retire later. But the rest of us? Get real. (See Ezra Klein’s column in The Washington Post on Nov. 21. He does a great job of explaining this.)

And this is why I’m sighing right now.

Because those in charge seem to be forgetting that they are in charge for one reason:

To advance the common weal of all the people.

In 1992, Bill Clinton’s campaign used the mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

This year, that mantra needs to be changed.

It needs to say, “It’s the people, stupid!”

As in, PAY ATTENTION TO US!!

The economy can’t get better as long as too many of us are (a) out of work or (b) working in jobs that simply do not pay enough.

And please don’t talk to me about this silly idea that increasing taxes on the rich will hurt the economy. Because that is Not. True.

The richest among us have received extraordinary tax breaks for the last decade … a decade in which they have grown much, much (did I mention much?) richer, while unemployment has grown and wages have fallen.

So … tell me again how giving the rich yet another tax break is going to help the economy?

And if it isn’t going to help the economy, how, pray tell, is it going to help the people of this country?

And if it doesn’t help the people of this country, then, I can assure you, it is not for the common good, and therefore should not be done.

I know that we are headed for a so-called “fiscal cliff” and that I am supposed to be quaking in my boots over this.

Well, I’m not.

You know why?

Because if nothing else, going over that cliff will at least serve as a wake-up call to the folks in charge. Heck, it might even get them to do something about the state of the economy, to help those in need, and to get going on doing the work that needs to be done, for our people and for our country.

I know, I know:

IF we go over that cliff, the middle-class will be hit, immediately, with a tax increase on average of $2,000 per year. In simpler terms, that means an additional $5.50 per day for each of us.

Ouch.

          But it also means that the richest people will have to pay more as well, which means that there will be more money in the budget.

Yes, drastic cuts are supposed to happen as well.

But that’s Congress’ fault, because Congress has failed to act, because Congress has been focused too much on “winning” political games and not enough on doing its actual job.

I also know that what Congress hath wrought, Congress can un-wrought as well.

It was Congress that mandated these stupid, across-the-board cuts.

So Congress can un-mandate those same cuts.

But only if Congress decides to be sane, to quit posturing and to take care of the real business of this country, which is not, as Calvin Coolidge once proclaimed, “business,” but the welfare – the common weal – of the American people.

One more thing:

Those so-called “entitlements”? The ones that conservatives like to attack with abandon, even as they and their family members collect them?

Leave them the hell alone.

No, wait.

Reform them.

In sane ways.

Social Security? It would be solvent for decades if we collected FICA on incomes above $110,000, the current cap for taxation. Really? We only tax up to $110,000? That’s totally insane, you know, from an economic standpoint. It means that the people who pay the most are the ones who can afford it the least, while those who can afford it the most pay the least.

In what economic universe does that even remotely make sense?

Medicare? Stop the insane talk about increasing the retirement age. See the argument above – only upper-class people can afford to do this, and they don’t need Medicare anyway. So they certainly are not the people to be making this decision.

Medicaid? Someone really wants to cut this? Are they, too, insane? Who in their right mind wants to ensure that sick people stay sick? In what economic model does that make sense?

Never mind the nonsense about cutting assistance to those most in need. Those ideas? They need to be named for what they are: Punishment on those who are in need, who are less fortunate, who don’t have a leg up, who can’t get a leg up.

Every sane study out there says that the better we care for our people, the better off we will be as a country.

Bingo! I say we need to catch each other ... that's what community is all about.

And those wacky ideas on closing loopholes and removing tax deductions? Be careful what you ask for, is all I can say. Let’s take just one of those deductions, the one for charitable giving: End that one and boom! Charities are in deep kimchi. I’m sure all those homeless people, and needy people, and any other people receiving help via charities would be fine with having their help cut in order to magically “balance” the budget on their backs.

So you know what I say?

I say, Go ahead. Let’s jump off the danged fiscal cliff. Let’s do so with joy and abandon.

I’m willing to suck it up and pay $5.50 day – if it means that (a) the whole community is being helped, and (b) the people who can afford this a whole lot more than me kick in their fair share as well. (And no, having a rich person pay the same amount as me Does. Not. Count.)

I am not going to like paying $5.50 a day – and frankly, it’s going to be a stretch to do so (I’m not exactly middle class right now). But dang it! If that’s what it will take to ensure that the least among us are cared for, that our government is focused on all the people, that the community will be built up, that the safety nets will be strengthened … well, yeah. I’m in.

Are you?

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Dear Congress: For God’s sake and ours, please, just do it!

Dear Members of Congress:

It is time to get back to work.

The election is over.

Many of you won, some of you lost.

It doesn’t matter. You are still the 112th Congress, and you still have a spit-load of work to do.

So go do it.

Now.

For God’s sake, and for our sake, please, just go do it!

I know you’re tired. I know you’ve been working your butts off getting re-elected, that you’ve been traveling a lot, that your throats are sore and your heads are probably pounding, and that your body is, quite simply, ready to quit

So take a few days off — but ONLY a few.

Then come back to DC and do the work we actually elected you to do.

Yes, Thanksgiving is coming, and you traditionally take a long time off for that, and yes, this is a lame-duck Congress, and yes, you really want to rest right now.

But the rest of the country is working – hard – either at jobs or at trying to get a job. The rest of us don’t get to take a break. We don’t get to pass the buck, and neither should you.

Because of your recalcitrance, mixed in with some of the same from the President (who got re-elected, so deal with it), you have managed to pass the buck on darned near everything. Through your intransigence, we are now facing a man-made (and yes, I chose that word deliberately) fiscal “cliff” that is completely your own fault. You don’t want to make hard decisions, you don’t want to compromise your so-called values, you don’t want to look weak.

Blah, blah, blah.

We the people have spoken, and we have not spoken for more gridlock caused by people who cannot, for the life of them, learn to play well together in the sandbox, much less share their toys.

Well, guess what, gentlemen and gentlewomen?

They aren’t your toys. They’re ours.

And we the people demand that you use them well, for the greater good of the American people and the world.

We demand that you pass a jobs bill that indeed will indeed put us back to work. It’s not a hard thing to do, so please: Just do it.

We demand that you pass a budget bill that is not filled with special perks, also known as “pork.” We’re on a diet, folks – we don’t need the extra fat. Face reality: You are going to have to mix tax increases with cuts. You cannot come remotely close to a decent budget – never mind a balanced one – on the backs of the poorest and the neediest.

The automatic cuts? The automatic rise in tax rates for all? The looming limit on the debt? FIX them! Stop messing around and just do it!

Remember: You did not win a mandate for business as usual. You are in Congress now – and many of you will continue in your jobs – because we, the people, need you to work on our behalf. So pass a danged budget that is sane and fair, that raises money from those who can afford to give more, and cares for those of us, the forty-SIX percent (that’s the accurate number) who need help.

No more posturing, no more whining, no more fantasies about trickle-down economics. Face reality, and do the right thing. For God’s sake and for our sake, just do it.

And lest you think that is all you need to do: Wait. There’s more!

We demand that you, Congress, step up and pass a bill that will stop this obscene spending on election campaigns. Billions were spent on this election, in great part because of the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is, as I said, obscene. Just think of what we could have done with that money. Think of the people we could have fed; the teachers, firefighters and cops we could have hired; the medical care we could have provided; the infrastructure we could have repaired; the homeless who could have had shelter.

Think about what could have been – and then hang your heads in shame.

So the next time you see a person begging for food, the next time you see a person sleeping on the street, the next time you actually meet a person in need – ask that person for forgiveness, for you, my dear members of Congress, could have done something about this.

And you didn’t.

While you’re back at work, remember: We women in this country? We do not want you messing around with our bodies. No way. No how. So stop your assaults on us. Stop trying to pass moral laws that are, at best, immoral. Get your hands off our bodies. Now.

We demand that you finally, finally, take a realistic look at climate change, and do something about it! I know, I know: Some of you live in a fantasy world in which you believe you can deny reality. If you are in any way confused about what climate change looks like, call Chris Christie. Or Cory Booker. Or Michael Bloomberg. Ask them to take you on your very own personal tour of devastation.

Then, get real about what is happening to our world, and do something about it. Just do it.

In the House, we the people demand that you stop passing stupid – I really can’t think of another word to use here that would be more accurate – bills to rescind the Affordable Health Care Act, that try to impose inane economic policies, that target women and their bodies, yadda, yadda, yadda. Yeah, we know you want to show off your conservative credentials. But the fact is, every time you pass one of these stupid bills, you look like a child taunting the loser of a game: Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah! We won and you lost! For God’s sake, could you possibly act like grown-ups? The fact that the country has spoken should tell you: Stop screwing around. Just do it.

And to the members of the Senate, one of the most exclusive clubs in the world: You, gentlemen and gentlewomen, need to read the Constitution again. Nowhere does it say that a majority is not a majority, that to merely have a bill considered takes 60 votes. This is balderdash and a childish game. So stop it. You have a chance, right now, to finally demonstrate to the people who elected you that you are grown-ups. So end this stupid practice right now and get to work. Just do it!

We have a lot of work to do in this country. We need to get out of a war, care for our veterans, find housing for millions, jobs for millions more, and make sure all those people have health care. Our infrastructure needs urgent help. The people of New York and New Jersey are in dire straits. Our children need better education.

We the people are damned tired of the war between the have’s and the have-not’s. We are fed up with posturing. We are not stupid – we understand economics a whole lot better than many of you do, apparently. We are willing to sacrifice together for the common good. We want to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, proclaim jubilee for the poorest. We want to be a community!

And we can’t – not while you’re lolly-gagging around and posturing like puffed-up little Napoleons.

So listen to us, dear members of Congress:

For God’s sake and for our sake, please: Just do it!

 

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Dear Members of Congress: Stop it!

(Written for McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

Dear Members of Congress:

Apparently, you did not receive the last memo I sent you. So I am writing again, in the hopes that perhaps you will begin to listen a little more carefully to the vast majority of the people of the United States, who are tired unto death of the games you are playing.

Trust me on this: We the people despise being held hostage to someone else’s ideology in general, and right now, we truly despise being held hostage to your ideology.

That little game you played last week, taking us to within an hour of shutting down the federal government?

Not good.

And not professional.

Ladies and gentlemen, we did not elect you to go to Washington so you could play games with our lives. And yet, that is exactly what you are doing.

Many of you claim that you want to “balance the budget,” with which we the people in general agree needs to happen.

But we did not ask you to do this on our backs alone!

Do some programs need to be cut? Sure they do. But is anyone up there paying attention to the fact that some of those programs you, in your ideological fervor, are so eager to cut are the very ones that help us, the people?

Think about it: Cut out funding for Planned Parenthood, which some of you knowingly disparage and about which some of you knowingly make up facts (as though we the people had no idea of the truth) so that you allegedly can protect the unborn and allegedly cut the rate of abortions? Really? First, let’s deal with reality: Less than 5 percent of Planned Parenthood’s funding goes to abortions; not 80 percent, as some of you have claimed, not 90 percent, but less than 5 percent! The rest of their funding goes to prevent abortions! So … if you cut that funding? You run the risk of increasing the rate of abortions!

This isn’t balancing the budget.

This is ideological warfare.

Those of you who are proponents of this cut? Stop it. Stop playing games with women’s lives, stop threatening to cut out the very care they need to protect their reproductive health.

Stop it!

And let’s look at another one of your favorite targets: Public broadcasting. Those of you advocating for this loudly proclaim that NPR is too “liberal.” Fine. So be it. That’s your opinion and you are entitled to that.

But if you cut out NPR, scores of radio stations in areas that have no other options will go off the air.

Now let’s think about this: You make this cut, those stations go off the air, and somehow you still think you can get your opinions out? Who is going to air those opinions? There are no other options!

So, please: Stop it. Just because the whole world does not agree with you does not mean you get to control the world.

Stop it!

What about these proposals to cut funding for Medicare and Medicaid and health care and children’s health care and education, that would undermine labor, that would making going to college harder and tell the poorest of the poor, “Tough luck”? You claim to want to build the economy, and yet you are targeting the very things for which people need help. If we don’t get this assistance, how, pray tell, do you think we’re going to be able to build up this economy?

It is hard enough to get a job and keep one these days (and in case anyone has forgotten, let me give you a basic economics refresher: Jobs, jobs, jobs! You want a functioning, healthy economy? Then we all need jobs!). Cut education initiatives, cut out health care, undermine labor, and pretty soon, you won’t have anyone working for you. No work, no pay. No pay, no purchases. No purchases, and boom! There goes the economy again! So please, stop this nonsense.

Stop it!

Oh, and could we talk for a moment about the environment? Do you recall that God specifically, in creation, asked us to be good stewards of God’s creation? (Note, please: That’s what it means to have dominion over the earth and all the creatures upon it – not to harm it recklessly, but to care for it on behalf of God.) And yet you want to cut the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce the laws that you passed, so that corporations can do whatever they want to God’s very good creation?

Tell us, please, how this is good stewardship. Explain to us, if you can, how this will help the economy. Because even we, who are not elected to serve in Congress, know that refusing to care for the environment means that more people will end up ill, with life-threatening, and in some cases, life-taking illnesses.

Surely you understand that this will not help the economy, right? Face it, the more people you have who are ill, the fewer people you have who are working and thus putting money into the economy. From a purely economic standpoint, this is one of the more ridiculous ideas anyone in Washington has had in decades. Economically (and notice, please, that here I am not bombarding you with moral or theological arguments – we’re just talking about money, plain and simple) this is nonsense! It is cutting off our noses to spite our faces. Economically, this is stupid.

So stop it!

And please, tell us: Are you really serious about this idea of permanently extending tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this land? Even when dozens of those people have said that this should not be done? Is there any decent economic reason for this, any rational explanation?

Please do not try to tell us, once again, that when the rich are richer, their wealth will trickle down to the rest of us. We’ve seen these tax breaks for more than a decade now – and two-plus years ago, while the wealthiest were enjoying their gift from the government, our economy tanked!

Where was the trickle down then?

Where has the trickle down ever been?

Stop it!

And while we the people are on such a tear, let’s talk about one more thing:

Stop playing with the lives of the people of Washington, D.C.!

The District of Columbia is not your personal playground. You attached riders to the latest continuing resolution that told the people in D.C. that they cannot spend their own tax money the way they want.

Excuse me?!

Did I miss something?

You can’t do this with your own states, your own districts, so you decide to take it out on the last colony the federal government owns?

This is shameful, ladies and gentlemen, simply shameful.

I know that President Obama agreed to this; shame on him for this as well.

The people of the District of Columbia are not your slaves. They are not colonists, even though they do live with taxation without representation. Just because you are terrified of giving them the vote does not give you the right to muck about in their lives, in their decisions, whenever you need to score an ideological point for your people back home.

So stop it!

Now, listen: You say you want to cut deficits and balance the budget.

We the people agree.

But we want you to do this the right way.

We want you to find the duplication of programs and funding, and find a way to end that.

We want you to stop the ridiculous funding for defense programs that even the Pentagon says it doesn’t want. If the military doesn’t want it, don’t build it!

We want you to stop these ridiculous tax breaks for the richest of the rich, and for the corporations. We want you to close some of those ridiculous loopholes that allow the richest and biggest corporations to pay little or no taxes, while we the people have to pay our fair share (and often what feels like a heck of a lot more than our fair share).

We want you to invest in the future, which is all of ours.

We want you to keep the covenant that you made with us, the people – the average Joe and average Jane – that you will work on our behalf.

And we the people want you to understand: We do not believe that it is a right or good thing, or our wish, that our assistance to our brothers and sisters overseas should be cut. We don’t spend much overseas anyway, not in the overall scheme of things, but what little we do spend has tremendous impact. Those anti-malarial programs? They save lives. The HIV/AIDS initiative? Ditto.

Again, you want to balance the budget on the backs of those least able to afford it, while sparing yourselves (and yes, we do know that many of you qualify for those grand tax breaks you keep extending – don’t think we haven’t put that together). Economically, morally, ethically and theologically, this, too, is wrong.

So stop it!

Stop attacking those with whom you disagree. Stop your ad hominen attacks on those who work for the federal government. Stop talking about “out-of-control federal bureaucracies” as though you had no part in creating them, and no part in running them. Congress created most of these bureaucracies; Congress makes the laws about what they can and cannot do; and Congress throws a fit when something goes wrong.

Hint: You are Congress!

So, please … pleasestop this nonsense!

The Apostle Paul tells us, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God …” (Romans 8:28a).

We the people would like you, the Members of Congress, to remember this.

We did not put you there to play ideological games. We are not pleased to be held hostage to your egos.

So, one more time:

Stop it!!!

X X X

(The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is a priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.)

 

This column was written for and distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

The art of the possible

“Politics,” I said to a 20-something friend recently, “is the art of the possible. It is not evil. It is about how we work together to do the most good for the greatest number of people at any given time.”

The 20-something was surprised.

“What did you say ‘politics’ is?” she asked.

“It is the art of the possible,” I told her. “I may not get everything I want, and you may not get everything you want, but in the end, if it is done correctly, if we are faithful, together we achieve the best result possible at that moment.”

The 20-something was excited to learn this. She had never thought of politics in that light before, and frankly, I’m not surprised. She’s grown up in an age when politics is so partisan that it’s hard to remember that both sides of any given argument are even discussing the same thing, much less striving to work together.

As I watch what is happening in this country right now – particularly the budget debates taking place in Congress and the union-government showdown in Wisconsin – I wonder if those who are professional politicians remember the definition of their jobs, to care for the people.

Instead of standing up and taking responsibility for what they have done, veteran lawmakers in Congress pretend they have had nothing to do with the last 10 years of running up the deficit to the point that it endangers all that we do, and now threaten to slash and burn not just the budget, but many of the good things our government does.

Newcomers to Congress act as though they have no responsibility for any program that existed before they arrived inWashington, and that they do not care for the outcome of any action they take … as long as the deficit is reduced.

Now, threats swirl throughout Washington about another federal government shutdown, which we haven’t seen since the mid-1990s. No one seems concerned about the economic impact of a shutdown, either on the government, on the people of this land who would be directly affected, or even on the hot-dog vendors on the street, who would lose their income as well.

The Speaker of the House, when told that his recommended budget actions would mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of federal jobs – this at a time when the unemployment rate is still at 9 percent – shrugs his shoulders and says, “So be it.” (Does the Speaker know that this is the English translation of “Amen,” which comes from the Hebrew Scriptures? Is he aware that in saying, “So be it,” he is endorsing “job-killing,” which he claims to be fighting?)

I think it is safe to say that every single one of us in this country knows that we have to do something about the budget and the deficit. But this slash-and-burn approach has nothing to do with the art of the possible.

Instead of working together to achieve the best possible results, both sides seemed locked in a battle of egos, with the American people suffering the consequences.

How does intransigence fulfill the art of the possible? What good does it do to continuously say, “Read my lips”? (Doesn’t that remind you of children on the playground, saying, “Am too! Am not!”)

Leaders do not lay down ultimatums while simultaneously refusing to listen to anyone. Leaders make the hard decisions necessary to care for the most people – that, after all, is government’s purpose, to make secure the lives of the people.

There’s a hard-and-fast deadline coming up that means that something has to be done, and soon. If our representatives bothered to work together, they could achieve the possible.

We know that is possible to cut spending, to balance the budget, to lower the deficit, because all of that happened in the Clinton administration. Of course, first we had to go through that shutdown during that same administration.

So what would it take to move from stubborn “Heads-I-win-tails-you-lose” gamesmanship that serves no one to a dance that actually will lead to the best possible solutions for everyone?

How much longer will it take for everyone to realize that all things indeed are possible – but only when we remember to follow the instructions we have received from God, and not from polls, not from lobbyists, not from people more concerned with advancing themselves at the costs of others?

Is there waste in the federal budget? Absolutely. Some of the rules are so convoluted that of course we are paying too much to implement them.

But it is not faithful, to God or to the people, to slash and burn simply to make a point, or to get back at someone  you don’t like.

This country right now is faced with the ultimate opportunity to achieve the possible, to work together for the good of the people.

After all, isn’t that why those in office ran for office? So they could care for the people of this land?

McClatchy-Tribune New Service, 2011

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

An Open Letter to the Members of Congress

Dear Ladies and Gentleman:

I write to you today on behalf of the people of the United States of America. I do not actually claim to speak for all of my fellow Americans, but I do know that many of us feel the same.

As you prepare for the new Congress, with a Republican-led House, a Democratic-led Senate and a Democrat in the White House, please remember these things:

First, you work for us.

You work for all of us.

We do not work for you.

Obviously we are not your immediate constituents. But in reality, we are. Because we are the citizens of this country, and you are the legislative power of this country. So please, when you are doing your work in Washington, remember that anything you do for your own constituents affects the rest of us, your national constituents.

Second, stop playing games.

We the people do not really want your strutting, your posturing, your gamesmenship. Just as productivity is important in our workplaces, just as we are rewarded when we meet goals at work, we expect you to be productive, too. Running the country is not a game; it is your job. It is your duty. It is your privilege.

So stop the games. We do not care one whit about you scoring points. Scoring points is not what we elected you to do. We elected you – each of you and all of you – to work. So get to it!

Third, remember us! I know you may think you are remembering us, but trust me, when you talk about rescinding health-care reform without a plan to replace it that is based in reality, not on partisanship, we the people are not pleased. You know why? Because we know that you have the best health-care in the world, and that more than 50 million of us don’t. Don’t talk to us about your ideas on health-care if you plan to leave 50 million of us hanging in the wind – yet again.

Remember, too, that we are the ones who are feeling the pain right now. Those of you who oppose extending unemployment benefits? Get real. Your gamesmenship means many of us will not have enough to eat, cannot pay our bills, and may lose our homes. For you this is a “matter of principle,” although we cannot figure out which principle it might be. For us, this is bottom-line reality: No more unemployment benefits, we’re in deep trouble. Stop balancing your principles on our backs.

Fourth, get real. Do not talk to us about balancing the budget and getting rid of wasteful spending and then demand that we extend the Bush tax breaks to the richest people – at an estimated cost of $700 billion over the next 10 years! Please. We are not stupid. We can do the math ourselves. And in doing that math, we can see that adding to the deficit will not end the deficit.  When 40 of the richest individuals in the United States publicly say you should to tax them more, when Warren Buffett says it is time to end the free ride for the richest, listen to them! Should you extend the tax breaks for the middle class? Yes. But for the richest, who only have gotten richer in the last decade? No. They’ve had their free ride, they’ve received their riches, they do not need more. You know why? Because there’s no such thing as trickle-down economics. When the rich get richer, they simply get richer. And we know that.

Finally, please, please, please: Respect us in the morning. We the people are not stupid. Obviously, many of you think we are. You think you can pull the wool over our eyes. But you cannot. We are paying attention, we do understand what’s going on, and we will hold you accountable.

It is time for you to step up and do the jobs we the people gave to you. We the people do not want to hear any more excuses. We do not want to hear you blame “big government” when you are that big government. We do not want any more posturing, any more points-scoring.

What we want is for you to work on our behalf.

We the people put you there, and we want you to remember that.

So get to work, please. Play your games some other time.

X X X

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Virginia who served for five years as an overseas missionary.

McClatchy-Tribune New Service

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter