Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Sheriff of Nottingham Strikes Back


"We are going to bring the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. We are going to bring those who have known long years of hurt and neglect.... We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago."
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We all know what Robin Hood was about; stealing from the rich, and giving to the poor. FOX News would call that socialist wealth redistribution. Martin Luther King would call it the Poor People's Campaign. Five years after his "I Have a Dream" speech, MLK called for poor America to build a tent city on the national mall and participate in a massive civil disobedience campaign to ask for economic justice.

At a total of $240 billion to the benefit of the poor and middle class since 2009, the Obama Tax Cuts are well-deserved. However, poor people are still very much present today as they were in 1968. I and many others are members of that club. I've felt the unemployment blues, and still find myself counting down the days until my food stamp benefits renew. However, unlike 2,000,000 of the 14.8 million of us without jobs, I can still count on $240 a week in the state of Mississippi until I get hired again. Those 2 million other folks are about to lose that last line of help and hope in the midst of the most crippling recession since the Great Depression eight decades ago unless Congress extends their benefits. The price tag for extending benefits through 2011 is $65 billion dollars, which Republican lawmakers unanimously oppose on grounds that it would increase the federal deficit. We've heard this before. But now they're taking it a step further.

Compassionate Conservatism

"Jesus looked at the man, and his heart went out to him, and he said, 'There is still one thing wanting in you; go and sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall heave wealth in heaven; then come and follow me.' But the man’s face clouded at these words, and he went away distressed, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus looked round, and said to his disciples: 'How hard it will be for men of wealth to enter the kingdom of God!'

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again: 'My children, how hard a thing it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to get through a eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'"

-Gospel of Mark, Ch. 10, v. 21-25

It's safe to say Jesus wasn't a capitalist. If we were truly a Christian nation like the social conservatives always say, then we'd be a Social Democracy. And if this nation were truly founded on Christian principles (it wasn't) then the far right would have no problem paying progressively more based on how much you earn., and they would jump for joy at social spending for the lower and middle classes.

Of course, that isn't the American way. Not according to U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, anyway. The Sheriff of Nottingham's concern over the deficit is so great that he's willing to cut off the last string holding up 2,000,000 of his countrymen (255,000 in his own district) if Democrats don't agree to another $700 billion tax bailout for millionaires. And he's putting the deficit gun to the head of the jobless just in time for the season of joy and giving, no less. Happy holidays to you too, Pete.

Now, I know $700 billion is a much bigger deficit buster than $65 billion, but Republican governance doesn't require logic or reason. Nor apparently does it require proficiency at math. All it really requires is the hatred of wealth redistribution, unless wealth is being redistributed from the poor to the rich. In 2005, the average CEO earned more in one day than the average worker earned in 52 weeks. Today, that income disparity has only worsened, thanks to the class warfare being waged by Wall Street and Congressional Republicans against the rest of us. Today, there is more income inequality in the United States than in traditional banana republics like Venezuela, Guyana and Nicaragua.

I know "class warfare" is a strong term, but strong terms need to be used when Republican Congressmen would rather have 2,000,000 poor people get kicked out into the streets instead of the wealthiest 2% of the population paying modest Clinton-era taxes. Taxes, which, by the way, are still 10% lower than what they paid under their hero, Ronald Reagan, during the majority of his administration.

My point: Republicans are holding a gun to the head of 2,000,000 poor Americans over $65 billion. They won't let them go until we sacrifice another $700 billion to millionaires, who have already fattened their pockets at our expense over the last decade.

I'm not saying we need to grab our pitchforks and torches. But we need to be loud and be heard, especially before January.

A Final Call to Action

"We don't want people lingering at home. In fact, we don’t even want people to use unemployment, if they don’t have to. If you lose a job, just go out and find another job. There’s jobs out there, you’ve just got to be willing to work.”
-Congressman-elect Steve Palazzo (R-MS)

Republicans say they're putting an ear to working America's voice, yet they champion policies that put a boot on working America's neck. They say they're the party of Christian values, yet their policies are the exact opposite of what Christ calls us to do. They say tax cuts for the wealthy are necessary, yet the last ten years of tax cuts for the wealthy have been the worst on record for job creation. Republicans have no problem playing the role of the Sheriff of Nottingham; they'll fight to for the riches of themselves and their campaign contributions even as the rest of us suffer.

Such blatant hypocrisy is not unusual for Republicans- we should expect it by now, and not just about the deficit. For example, take Maryland's Andy Harris, a physician and newly-elected Republican who campaigned on repealing "Obamacare." He had a hissy fit when he found out he wouldn't be getting his government health care until a month after being sworn in. He'll fight like hell to take your health care reform away, but he'll fight like hell to get his own government health care.

The mantra of the teapublicans? Please, don't redistribute any wealth, unless it's from the poor to the rich! Please, no government health care for the uninsured, just for me!

Are you mad yet? Good. use it. The Democrats have control of both chambers until January. Only a majority vote is needed to extend unemployment benefits, to extend middle class tax cuts, and to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The final session of the 111th Congress started this week.

Call the White House and tell your president that he must fight for the other 98% us. Call your congressmen and senators and tell them to listen to the other 98% of us.

White House- 202-456-1111
Capitol Switchboard- 202-224-3121

Call now. Call tomorrow. Call often. Be heard. Make them hate their jobs. That's what we pay them for.


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