Last night I began to write a review of where the Spirit has led us in American culture, politics, and society this year, and what we may face next year. But right now, an urgent outcry:
As I write, the Tax Deform hovers on the edge of passage, but the wave of resistance and remonstrance is rising. More sit-ins are on the way, like the one Rabbi Phyllis Berman and I took part in last week, warning Congressmembers they would get a “pink slip” in November if they vote for the bill on final passage.
One Senator who voted to Deform our country --- Susan Collins of Maine –-- is so shaken by her constituents’ anger and by her party leadership’s betrayal of its promises to her about the bill, that she has said she might reverse her vote.
There is still time to act: Call her, Senator McCain, and Pennsylvania Congressmen Meehan and Costello, at 1202-224-3121. Come to Capitol Hill if you can on Wednesday morning December 13, to honor the first day of Hanukkah as a nonviolent Maccabee resisting Oligarchy. For more information and to register, click to --
And in the Philadelphia region, plans are under way for a faith-based action (both risking & not risking arrest) at the home offices of three Members of the House. Call -- Melissa Byrne at 609.364.4267 if you would like to take part.
Why do all this? Because the Tax Deform bill strangles Obamacare and deeply wounds Medicare and Medicaid and even cancels tax deductions for medical expenses; it heavily burdens the lives of college students and grad students with higher taxes; it tries to choke to death the renewable-energy business while subsidizing Big Oil and Big Coal, thus burning our planet and ourselves.
And while impoverishing the middle class, the Tax Deform bill cuts a trillion dollars from the taxes of the Hyper-wealthy, setting the scene for an Oligarchy to replace American democracy and preparing the way to slash Social Security and Medicare to make up for the staggering deficit created by its radical reduction of money the Federal government can spend for human needs -- because it has delvered all this extra money to the Hyper-wealthy.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles is burning, Puerto Ricans are still dying because they have been deprived of electric power, and the arsonists who caused both disasters are sitting in cushy Corporate offices, Capitol Hill, and the White House.
This past Sunday was Human Rights Day, commemorating the original adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. I was invited to speak to the Amnesty International chapter of South Jersey.
The “Press of Ocean City” covered the event, and its report is at –--
In this letter to you I will divide what I said in two parts: Naming the truth of where we Americans are as 2017 ends, and then looking forward into 2018. This is the first part of what I said; the second, I will send to you tomorrow.
When we talk about attacks on human rights, usually we have in mind a specific arena: attacks on racial equality, or religious freedom, or freedom of the press, or the rights of women and the GLBTQ community, or the right to vote.
When such attacks come in American society, usually they seem like a bad case of the flu or a broken arm in the body of a basically healthy person –-- a momentary break in the over-all context of a healthy functioning democratic society. Attacks on racial equality are different: They began at the beginning and continue to this day, sometimes more virulent, sometimes less. Right now, a lot more, with a white-supremacist in the White House.
Most other attacks on human rights in America arise in moments of economic crisis or foreign war, and then they subside. We end up being ashamed of them, and to make sure that we can keep upholding human rights, we support organizations like Amnesty.
But all that is in the context of a healthy functioning democracy (again, except for racism), only occasionally wounded as a healthy person might be.
Today we face something different. We face a concerted effort to overturn American democracy and to substitute an oligarchy of the Hyper-Wealthy. At the core of this effort are attacks on every human right, all the human rights, that together make democracy possible – – in fact, are democracy.
Who would have thought that a "tax reform" bill could embody attacks on basic human rights? But the whole point of the bill we now see before Congress is to shift enormous wealth and power into the hands of those who are already enormously wealthy and powerful, and simultaneously to weaken at every turn the ability of 99% of our society to meet our own needs or to bring about public policy that meets our needs. (That ability is what we call "democracy.")
I call the bill not “tax reform” but “Tax Deform.” It twists and deforms America -- our shared religious and ethical values, our future, our hopes and plans for our children and grandchildren.
It tries to choke to death the renewable-energy business while subsidizing Big Oil and Big Coal, it strangles Obamacare and deeply wounds Medicare and Medicaid and even cancels tax deductions for medical expenses, it heavily burdens the lives of college students and grad students with higher taxes.