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!!!


(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.

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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.


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

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