Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Letter to Rep. John Sarbanes



We will deliver the letter below on November 16.  Let me know if you can go to the meeting.  If yes, what time works better for you – noon or 4:30 PM?  Please respond ASAP.  Thanks.






Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore

325 East 25th Street

Baltimore, MD 21218



November 16, 2011


Rep. John Sarbanes

600 Baltimore Ave.

Suite 303

Baltimore, MD  21204


Dear Representative Sarbanes:


The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is scheduled to submit its recommendations on November 23. Unofficial reports say that their recommendations will include more-severe cuts than the Simpson-Bowles commission proposed, which does not bode well for ordinary citizens. When it comes time for you to vote to accept their recommendations or reject them, please weigh both the needs of and the effects upon the people you serve in your state, as well as on all citizens. In this time of hardship and great uncertainty—where the gap between the poor and middle class and the rich is the greatest it has ever been—you must shut out the noise from lobbyists, contributors, and special interests and pop the bubble of politics in Washington to hear the voices of the people crying out for your help.


Current unfavorable public opinion toward both houses of the Congress results in part because there is a clear “them/us” disparity between how the rumored cuts to social programs affect the people out here and the people in Washington, DC. If cuts are made to vital programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, these would adversely affect primarily people of middle and lower incomes. The current perception is that this committee, as well as the Congress and the President, are making decisions for others when they have no true stake in the long-term consequences.


To materially resolve the debt issues our country faces, Congress needs to facilitate jobs creation and training. Employed people keep an economy healthy. We hear Congress telling us that we don’t have money for social and jobs programs, but what we see—in spite of the troop withdrawal from Iraq—is our tax dollars being poured down the drain into wars that harm many, enrich a few, and accomplish little. Congress has public support to call for an immediate end to the Afghanistan War and to go further in removing American presence from Iraq and the many other countries where we keep bases, troops, and security contractors. Knowing that essential agencies and social services are in jeopardy while money disappears into a bloated military budget should strike every member of Congress as wrong as it does us.


Since we are not like most industrialized countries around the world and we do not have guaranteed healthcare for our citizenry, Medicare and Medicaid are even more essential to Americans. Politicians and pundits point to fraud in these systems and are ready to eliminate—or at least cut—funding for them, instead of looking at how they can be repaired. The legalized fraud in Medicare is in Part D: In not being able to negotiate for drug prices, we allow Big Pharma to gouge our government and Medicare beneficiaries. This needs to change.


Medicare and Medicaid need to remain strong, because as long as the chasm between the wealthy and the rest of us endures, there is no alternative but Medicaid for the poor and Medicare for our retired and disabled. All those who rely on these programs need to have access to them and services from them before minor illnesses become catastrophic—and devastatingly expensive for all.


President Obama has said that his deficit suggestions “will not include any changes to Social Security.” We, along with millions of other people, do not believe that Social Security should even be part of the deficit discussion, because Social Security is entirely self-funding, at least for the time being. While the cut in payroll taxes is helping middle- and lower-class citizens keep more money from their paychecks in the short term, it is reducing the flow into Social Security’s trust fund. Widespread unemployment, not the number and age of retirees, is the strongest stressor on Social Security.


There is a partial solution to this problem, and it will ensure that Social Security—not an entitlement, but insurance that workers pay for all their working lives—can always fulfill its promise. This is to eliminate the cap on the payroll tax. Revenue from equitable payroll taxation at all levels of income would keep the tax rates moderate for low- and middle-income earners while keeping Social Security self-sufficient. Any argument for raising the retirement age or reducing benefits—as well as freezing cost of living increases—becomes irrelevant with this simple, fair change.


The greatest harm from the high rates of unemployment and the lack of good, well-paying jobs is to the people who need those jobs and the economy that relies on their ability to participate in it with the money they earn. Full, gainful employment is the remedy for any shortfall in Social Security, as well as our foundering economy. The jobs programs offered so far have shortchanged the problem. Obviously, though, for jobs to be created and for people to get the training they need to fill those jobs, money has to be there to pay for it.


Rep. John Conyers’ HR 870, the Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act, provides a solution to this need: A 0.25% tax on stock and bond transitions will fund training and jobs creation programs that will finally fulfill the promises of the Employment Act of 1946 and the first Humphrey-Hawkins bill. HR 870 will provide a job for every citizen who wants and needs one.


If not HR 870, then some other mechanism is necessary to institute a greatly needed financial transaction tax. You need only look at the Occupy movement to see that citizens are not fooled about Wall Street and corporations’ (especially multi-national corporations’) responsibility for our economic crisis. Financial speculation benefits those who already have no need for the services and agencies we fear are on the super committee's chopping block. It adds insult to injury when our tax dollars reimburse those speculators for their losses. It is only right that these transactions provide a source of revenue for our government to provide protections to the millions of us who have suffered directly or indirectly from the greed and excesses of the money dealers.


Corporations and investment banks are not true “stakeholders,” though their lobbyists are working overtime to ensure that your vote on the budget recommendations complies with their wants. We are the ones whose futures are truly at stake. It’s we, the people, whose futures are in jeopardy, and only a gainfully employed, healthy, and secure people will truly make this country thrive.


We look to you to vote against deficit-reduction recommendations that compromise Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; omit revenue-generating tax proposals, such as the financial transaction tax; and make insufficient cuts to the military budget. We look to you to vote to protect all citizens and restore balance to our economy. Please help to make our country—and its people—thrive once again.




Max Obuszewski

on behalf of the Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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