W hen we see others suffer, it is natural to want to do something to relieve their suffering. That's why there is such an outpouring of support when there is a natural disaster.
Both U.S. domestic and foreign policies also cause a great deal of suffering. But it's harder to see. Our ideological conditioning, our ignorance of the actual effects of the policies, our own busy lives and the sheer volume of issues keep us from responding to the suffering caused by domestic poverty, inequality and by U.S. militarism.
The discussions about the so-called "fiscal cliff" are a case in point. Social security, Medicare, Medicaid, job training programs, education and other domestic programs are on the chopping block. Social security is already very meager, not enough for seniors to meet all of their basic needs. When people can't meet their basic needs, they suffer.
As Rob Urie points out in "Democrats, Social Security and the Fiscal Cliff" (counterpunch.org), the "Fix the Debt" politicians, corporate executives and financiers aren't discussing eliminating tax deductions that benefit billionaire hedge fund managers. Nor are they discussing raising corporate tax rates, significantly cutting military spending or raising personal income tax rates on the super wealthy. The rich wouldn't suffer at all if the burden fell on them. And people in other countries would suffer a lot less if we stopped occupying their countries and killing them.
Unfortunately, many politicians in Washington and elsewhere aren't concerned with the suffering that their policies create. Their primary concern is the next election and ensuring they can raise the funds for a campaign, most of it from corporate and wealthy donors.
Contact Congressman Jared Polis at 303-484-9596, Senator Michael Bennet at 303-455-7600 and Senator Mark Udall at 303-650-7820 (more contact info. at congress.org) and let them know what your budget priorities are (see nationalpriorities.org for more info).
If you're in Boulder, stop by Polis' office at 4770 Baseline Road, Suite 220. If the politicians don't hear from you, they'll assume you agree that cutting programs that benefit the elderly, poor and middle class is OK with you.
And contact us at 303-444-6981, ext. 2 if you want to work with others on these issues.
Carolyn Bninski is on the staff of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.