Thursday, March 15, 2007

Get the State Legislatures to Filibuster

(Sent via e-mail today. I got the 2006-2007 Legislative Roster, and spent a couple of hours figuring out how to put the addresses into a giant 120-person list. -KW)

Dear Senators, Assemblymen and Assemblywomen:

I am a 33-year-old writer, wife and mother of two, living in North Plainfield NJ. I'm also a pacifist, and have been working since well before the catastrophe in Iraq began, to try to prevent it from beginning and then stop the bloodshed.

With my fellow peace activists all across America, I helped elect a Democratic Congress in Nov. 2006, not because the electorate wholeheartedly endorses all the traditional Democratic platform planks (hell, the Democratic Party doesn't even endorse things like health care, education and worker rights anymore) but because the electorate believed that the people who got us into the mess in Iraq - Republicans under Bush - were not willing or able to get us out and the Democrats were the only alternative. Plus, the Democrats said they would get us out.

As an aside, I should mention that my father was a lifelong Goldwater Republican until Bush drove the country into the ground, causing him to vote a straight Democratic ticket in Nov. 2006. I'm smart enough to know that good politics requires a balance between individual rights and responsibilities and collective rights and responsibilities, and that, in the absence of perfect knowledge, good faith debate leading to good faith compromise is the best way to achieve that balance. I'm also smart enough to know that the balance is currently totally out of whack, with all the rights belonging to the wealthy few, and all the responsibilities being borne by the rest of us.

Now, the Congressional Democrats are failing us. It's not totally unexpected. They promised to end the war, but keeping the war going will be better for their election chances in 2008, and looking only two years down the road, focused on their own political future, occupies most of their time, energy and passion.

For reference, see William S. Lind's article at Counterpunch:

A few excerpts:

"...The only way to support the troops when a war is lost is to end the war and bring them home. Nor is it a challenge to design legislative language that both ends the war and supports the troops. All the Democratic majorities in Congress have to do is condition the funding for the Iraq war with the words, "No funds may be obligated or expended except for the withdrawal of all American forces from Iraq, and for such force protection actions as may be necessary during that withdrawal." If Bush vetoes the bill, he vetoes continued funding for the war. If he signs the bill, ignores the legislative language and keeps fighting the war in the same old way, he sets himself up for impeachment. What's not to like?

For the Democrats, what's not to like is anything that might actually end the war before the 2008 elections. The Republicans have 21 Senate seats up in 2008, and if the Iraq war is still going on, they can count on losing most of them, along with the Presidency and maybe 100 more seats in the House. 2008 could be the new 1932, leaving the Republican Party a permanent minority for twenty years. From the standpoint of the Democratic Party's leadership, a few thousand more dead American troops is a small price to pay for so glowing a political victory.
Ironically, the people who should be most desperate to end the war are Congressional Republicans. Their heads are on the chopping block. But they remain so paralyzed by the White House that they cannot act even to save themselves...

...The likely result of all this Washington dodging is that events on the ground in Iraq and elsewhere will outrun the political process. That in turn means a systemic crisis, the abandonment of both parties by their bases and a possible left-right grass roots alliance against the corrupt and incompetent center. In that possibility may lie the nation's best hope."

I also recently learned that one Senator, with 40 supportive Senators, could filibuster to stop the war. Check it out here.

So, I’m writing to you to suggest a filibuster in the New Jersey Legislature to stop the war. Refuse to carry on the work of the state until the feds wake up and start cleaning up the huge messes they’ve made. One state could lead to a national revolt against unresponsive leaders in both national parties; Vermont is working its way in that direction, and maybe other states are too. In any case, without a movement from below, the war will drag on for no apparent reason, and I think both political parties and the country as a whole will suffer greatly from that course of action.

On a separate but related issue, I understand the NJ Legislature has given up on reforming the school funding/property tax issue for this year. I attended an Abbott District forum in Plainfield last fall, and came up with the following set of proposals. I pass them along in case you might find them useful in reframing your understanding of what governments can and should do, as far as resource distribution is concerned.

Politically, I’m more or less a communitarian (no, not a communist). The communitarian viewpoint holds that social networks, not individuals, are the cornerstone of healthy societies; that communities provide their members with the basic necessities of life; that there is such a thing as the public good, which calls upon stronger members of society to care for weaker members; and that everyone has positive rights to such things as food, housing, education, health care, safety and a clean environment.

In other words, members of a society have significantly better lives than individuals who live alone in the woods, and therefore all citizens can reasonably be required, non-violently, to make meaningful contributions to the public good from whatever resources in time, energy and money remain after providing a basic living for themselves and their dependents. From that communitarian perspective, I propose:

Federal Taxes: New Jersey should opt-out of the federal tax program, on the grounds that, as Founding Father James Otis said: “taxation without representation is tyranny,” and the federal government, from Congress to the President to the federal judiciary, is failing to provide and protect access to the basic public services Americans need and deserve.

Property Ownership: Revalue every home in New Jersey at $120,000 – about three times the average annual per capita income ($41,626) – and turn the deeds over from the banks to the homeowners: no more mortgage payments.

Property Taxation: For owner-occupied property, collect property taxes at one-half the national average rate. For non-owner-occupied property, collect property taxes at three times the national average, to provide incentives for home-ownership, and disincentives for the hoarding of affordable shelter.

Wages: The minimum wage for a 35-hour workweek in New Jersey should be raised to $30,000 per year. A maximum wage should be established, at $100,000 per year.

Personal Income Taxation: Do not tax individual income up to the state average of $41,636. Tax all individual income over the state average at 95%. (There is precedent for this – during the World War II era, personal income over $400,000 was taxed at 91%; it’s currently taxed at 35%).

Corporate Income Taxation: Tax all corporate profits at 95%.

Accumulated Personal and Institutional Wealth: Personal fortunes should be taxed at 95% upon the death of the individual, and non-financial incentives should be offered for those who voluntarily return their fortunes to their communities before their deaths. Institutional endowments should be managed to continually reinvest the proceeds in programs and services, not to accumulate more wealth for accumulation’s sake.

State Budget: Immediately release all non-violent offenders from state prisons, and abolish the costly death penalty, replacing it with life in prison without possibility of parole.

Local Budgets: Move ahead with consolidating nearby school districts and municipalities to cut administrative costs, provide non-financial incentives for strong citizen oversight to improve accountability, and ensure that citizens of each community still have relatively easy access – by foot, bicycle or bus – to public services.

Prioritize all state revenue to support public-private-nonprofit partnerships, with extensive volunteer citizen management, fully supported by employers through flexible schedules to accommodate employee participation at civic meetings, that provide:

Public Education: day care, preschool and kindergarten through bachelor’s degree, plus continuing adult education for all ages; well-supported public libraries;

Public Health: universal basic health care (nutritional and community garden programs, annual check-ups and routine sick-care for all ages, vaccinations, prenatal and maternity care, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs);

Public Safety: emergency services such as police, fire and EMS departments; environmental protection and renewable energy programs; public works, parks and recreation programs;

Public Pensions: guaranteed stipends ensuring an adequate, not luxurious, standard of living for all retirees and disabled workers;

Public Transportation: improve and expand bus, train and van-pool programs, bicycle and walking paths.


  • Well done - much thought about all these important issues - especially the war in Iraq.

    Problem remains - how to motivate people to contact their senators and congressmen/congresswomen?

    You have tried and tried. "Sapere Aude."


    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 7:38 AM  

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