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November 3, 2011

What I Told The Supercommittee

By Leah Bolger

I was arrested after telling the Congressional Supercommittee how the American people want them to fix the deficit: End the wars, and tax the rich.

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On 26 October I attended a public hearing of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, aka the "Super Committee."   I listened intently trying to make sense of the testimony as the sole witness, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf, recited lists of numbers, statistics and percentages; relabeled "defense" spending (already misleading enough"!) as "security" spending, and committee members spoke of "entitlement" spending and "OCO" funding (OCO is the acronym now being used for the Orwellian term "Overseas Contingency Operations.") After more than one hour, without hearing any mention of the will of the American people or their desires and priorities, I stepped over the theater rope, walked past the tables of rep orters, and stood next to Dr. Elmendorf seated at the witness table and proceeded to address the Super Committee.   

 In the roughly 50 seconds that I was able to speak before I was escorted out of the hearing room, I told the committee that the American people know what the answer to the deficit is:   (1) End the wars, (2) Tax the rich.   Public opinion is overwhelmingly supportive of both of these principles, while adamantly opposing cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.   Year after year, the National Opinion Research Center reports that the top two priorities of the American public for the expenditure of their tax dollars are health c are, and education, while defense comes in at a distant #18.   Yet the Democrats have offered up $400 billion in Medicare cuts, and Senator Kyl (R-AZ) has threatened to quit the committee if cuts are made to defense.

Though the public have made their opinions loud and clear, the Congress and the Super Committee specifically are thumbing their collective nose at us.   Big corporate money is running this government, and theirs are the only voices that are being heard, and the only interests that are being met.

So what can we do about it?   Given our current system, the answer is:   not much.   Sure, we can replace Democrats with Republicans, and vice versa, but they all dance to the tune of big money.   Campaign spending is at record levels and fundraising eats up increasingly huge chunks of time for our elected officials.   In well over 90% of cases, the candidate who spends the most money wins--and so it goes round and round.   

 Congress counts on corporate interests for campaign funding so that they can get elected and create legislation that favors corporate interests so that they will continue to receive campaign funding. This is why major corporate lobbyists have access to Congress (over 200 are lobbying the 12-member Super Committee alone), and this is why the only effective way for a member of the public to communicate with the Super Committee is by appearing in person and disrupting a hearing.

This lack of responsiveness and indifference to the will of the people, combined with the complete subordination of the government to corporate interests have   continued to grow and build to a point that the American public is no longer simply dissatisfied with government--they are outraged by it, and that outrage has now manifested itself as the Occupy movement.

My 50-second vocalization of the will of the American people got me arrested and charged with "Unlawful Conduct--Disruption of Congress."   One definition of "disruption" is "A problem or action that interrupts something and prevents it from continuing"" I only wish it were so.



Submitters Website: veteransforpeace.org

Submitters Bio:

Leah Bolger spent 20 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy and retired in 2000 at the rank of Commander. She is currently a full-time peace activist and serves as the President of Veterans For Peace.

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