Saturday, December 9, 2017

Open Letter From Moral Activists To Senator Mitch McConnell In Regards To Tax Reform

Today, we are serving notice that we will not remain silent while the basic institutions of our democracy are undermined.
To Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:
The U.S. Senate and House have passed tax legislation that, if given final approval, would amount to one of the most immoral laws in our nation’s history.
As this legislation heads to a final vote in Congress, the country’s poor and disenfranchised, along with moral leaders and people of conscience nationwide, call on you to stop the gross act of violence these bills would commit against our nation’s most vulnerable to serve its richest and most powerful.
You and your colleagues in the Senate approved this legislation under the cover of night, voting in the final hours to reward some of the country’s most powerful corporations and industries. The poor, working poor and most vulnerable in our society will pay for the billions in tax breaks you approved for the most wealthy among us.
The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has found that while big corporations, millionaires and their heirs will benefit, most people making under $75,000 a year will see their tax burdens rise. Meanwhile, this legislation will add $1.4 trillion to the national debt, setting the stage for future cuts to programs that help the poor. In the short term, we could see automatic cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. In the long term, this tax plan lays the groundwork for massive cuts to Social Security and other programs that sustain the poor, the elderly, and the most vulnerable among us.
This is not blind speculation. We have watched the agenda you are now pushing in Congress play out in statehouses from Kansas to North Carolina to Michigan and Wisconsin.
The voice of the prophet Isaiah speaks to each of us in this democracy:
Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. (Isaiah 10:1–4)
You and many of your colleagues say you are Christians and that you let your religion guide your policymaking. You even say you are “pro-life.” But your actions are stripping people of the healthcare they need to survive. You are working to pass legislation that is antithetical to the more than 2,000 verses that call on all of us to care for the poor and the sick.
You assert that this tax scheme will grow the economy, thus helping everyone. But no independent analysis agrees. Mr. Majority Leader, you are acting on faith, in spite of the evidence. We are writing to inform you that your faith is not in line with the Scriptures, nor with what your party’s first President called “the better angels of our nature.”
This country’s most vulnerable will not remain silent as this immoral legislation moves through Congress. Tens of thousands of poor and disenfranchised people, clergy and moral leaders today announced that we are coming together to launch the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. We will combine direct action with grassroots organizing, voter registration, and power building in the largest wave of nonviolent civil disobedience in U.S. history. Fifty years to the day after Dr. Martin Luther King and others called for the original Poor People’s Campaign, this legislation you are championing makes clear that we need this work now more than ever.
You do not have to move forward with this legislative violence. No opinion poll says that the American people are with you. The Scriptures and the Constitution itself condemn it. Whatever has convinced you that this is the right thing to do, you can live without. But people will die because of this attack on our people.
Today, we are serving notice that we will not remain silent while the basic institutions of our democracy are undermined. We invite you to join people of conscience across the country in rejecting the war on the poor that this tax legislation would wage. But even if you will not, we vow to move forward with a campaign to reconstruct America. Our nation’s soul is at stake. We cannot turn back — not now, not ever.
Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Co-Chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival Steering Committee Members:
Aaron Scott, Chaplains on the Harbor
Al McSurely, Esq., North Carolina NAACP
Avery Brook, Vermont Workers’ Center
Catherine Flowers, Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise
Fernando Garcia, Border Network for Human Rights
Justin Jones, Moral Mondays Tennessee
Luis Rodriguez, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural
Shailly Gupta Barnes, Esq., Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary
Ben Wilkins, Fight for $15
Rev. Claudia de la Cruz, Popular Education Project
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Red Letter Christians
Cherri Foytlin, Bold Louisiana
Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Drum Major Institute, Riverside Church of New York
Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, The United Church of Christ
Rev. Nelson Johnson, Faith Community Church
Rabbi Sharon Brous, IKAR
Rev. Shawna Foster, Two Rivers Unitarian Universalist Church
Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK
Maureen Taylor, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization
Roz Pelles, Repairers of the Breach
Penda Hair, Esq., Forward Justice
Gina Belafonte,
© 2015 Medium
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is the architect of the Forward Together Moral Monday Movement, president of the North Carolina NAACP and pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Goldsboro.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Arrested at Office Sit-In, Maine Clergy Demand Collins Reverse Vote on 'Immoral' GOP Tax Bill
A short stint in jail, said one demonstrator, is "a pretty minor inconvenience when compared to how this bill is going to devastate people's lives"
Denouncing the GOP tax bill as a "dangerous" scheme that "gives away huge amounts of money to those who need it least and takes money from those who need it most," a group of 10 religious leaders occupied an office of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Thursday demanding that she reverse her decision to support the deeply unpopular legislation.
"We think this tax bill is immoral and unjust and harmful and we're here to wait for Sen. Collins to commit to a no vote on this bill."
—Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill, Maine Council of Churches
"We're here because our faith compels us to be here," Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill, vice president of the Maine Council of Churches, said from inside Collins' Portland, Maine office. "We think this tax bill is immoral and unjust and harmful and we're here to wait for Sen. Collins to commit to a no vote on this bill."
The group—all members of Moral Movement Maine—remained in the senator's office after Collins staffers locked up for the day, and nine of the 10 demonstrators were ultimately arrested and charged with criminal trespass late Thursday night. The demonstration, which included a 45-minute phone conversation with Collins, was streamed on Facebook.
"We are gentle, loving people, and we are singing for our lives," members of the group intoned as police officers escorted them out of the office in handcuffs.
Ewing-Merrill said that while he and other members of the group did not want to be arrested, a short stint in jail is "a pretty minor inconvenience when compared to how this bill is going to devastate people's lives."
"This is not a stunt, but it's clear the senator is not ready to stand by a no vote," Ewing-Merrill concluded.
The sense that Collins' support for the GOP tax plan is wavering was bolstered Friday morning after Bloomberg reported that the White House will not commit to supporting two key Obamacare stabilization measures, the passage of which Collins was promised in exchange for her vote.
"Republican leaders are using this tax scam to attack healthcare again."
—Sunjeev Bery,
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also reassured Collins in a written statement that he would not allow the tax legislation, which still has to make its way through a conference committee, to trigger automatic cuts to Medicare—a promise critics mocked as not worth the paper it's written on.
"Perhaps Collins could use the letter as tinder to get her fireplace going when she returns to the Maine winter?" wrote Slate's Jim Newell shortly after the Senate bill passed with Collins' support.
Once the bill makes its way out of committee, it will go to the floor of both houses of Congress for a final vote.
Groups that have been working for months to stop the GOP tax plan seized upon the crumbling promises of Republican leaders—and Collins' remarks in a recent interview signaling that she is open to changing her vote—to urge Mainers and other Americans to ramp up pressure on their senators to reverse their positions and stop the legislation from reaching President Donald Trump's desk.
"Senator Susan Collins betrayed regular Mainers and voted for the GOP's tax scam last week with two conditions: that Congress would act to shore up the Affordable Care Act and that there would be no cuts to Medicare," Sunjeev Bery of noted in an email to supporters on Friday.
Now that it is becoming clear that McConnell's promises were "just empty words," Bery wrote, it is crucial that Mainers flood Collins' phone lines "each day to keep the pressure up."
"Republican leaders are using this tax scam to attack healthcare again," Bery concluded, addressing Collins. "You can still save your dignity and healthcare for countless Mainers—vote no on the final tax bill."
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