“And a little child shall lead them.”
On a traditional eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., dozens of students from South Orange Middle School in New Jersey refused to be photographed with Congressman Paul Ryan. One of those students, Matthew Malespina, said in an interview “that he chose not to be photographed with Ryan because he disagreed with the policies the speaker and his party are pushing on health care, among other things.” This thoughtful young man also called Ryan “a man who puts his party before his country.”
A book titled, “Inequality Matters: The Growing Economic Divide in America and Its Poisonous Consequences, was published in 2005, but it is even more relevant today than it was the day it was printed. It is filled with short, informative essays that give a broad overview of the problem of inequality, and is fascinating reading because of the insights it provides on how most of us have bit by bit over the years had that proverbial wool pulled over our eyes. In the introductory essay titled The Fight of Our Lives, Bill Moyers said, “Astonishing as it seems, scarcely anyone in official Washington seems to be troubled by a gap between rich and poor that is greater than it has been in half a century.” He went on to say that “From the heart of America’s media establishment comes the matter-of-fact judgement that America now has ‘government for the few at the expense of the many.’”
Listen up Congress. It’s past time to get your act together. When children refuse to be photographed with the Speaker of the House because he leads every battle to vote the party line instead of encouraging his constituents to negotiate with colleagues across the aisle to pass meaningful, helpful, moral legislation, it’s past time for you to take a long, hard look in the mirror to see yourselves as we see you.
It is likewise past time for each of us to join the fight to protect our safety net programs and make our voices heard. In answer to the question, “Where do I start,” here are a couple suggestions.
- Find Trump’s proposed budget on line and read, “What Trump’s budget cuts from the social safety net“. The Washington Post said, “It makes deep cuts across many anti-poverty programs, slashing food stamps by more than a quarter and children’s health insurance by 19 percent.” Bernie Sanders nailed it when he said that, “Trump’s budget is grotesquely immoral and would rob from the poor to pay the rich.”
- Pick one of the areas listed to fight for and make your voice heard. Send brief emails to your state representatives and senators asking them to maintain or increase current funding levels for that specific program. Also call them. Whether you get a real person on the line or a message asking you to leave a voice mail, it is important to introduce yourself and give your address so they will know you are a constituent who can vote them out of office. Then leave a succinct message supporting the program.
- Make it clear that you realize the only way we can pay for all the programs that are needed to turn inequality around – including providing more jobs through improving our infrastructure – is to increase the tax levels on the ultra-wealthy the way Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower did in the 1950s to help balance the budget. As it currently stands, the tax code is written to benefit the wealthy by taxing the rest of us more.
While you’ve read suggestions like these before, what is important to remember is that we have to make our voices heard to reclaim our political process. We have to begin somewhere – now.
What will you do first?
Blessings on your efforts,