NYACK, New York - January 30 -
To: George W. Bush
From: Fellowship of Reconciliation
Subject: State of the Union
Dear Mr. President,
Thank you for asking the Fellowship of Reconciliation to prepare State of the Union talking points for you. We share your deep concern for the state of this nation and the world, and are pleased to help you shape a forward-thinking vision at this critical time. By accepting these suggestions, you may eventually succeed in reconciling the majority of Americans to your leadership, notwithstanding your currently low approval ratings.
Mr. President, now is the time to address the conditions of decay, distrust, and deception that will otherwise become the legacy of this administration and Congress. Our nation needs to be able to trust its elected leaders again. As a person of faith, you surely recognize that for the American people to move forward to a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation, the way to begin this process is to speak the truth.
This will be painful. You will have to acknowledge the lies and mismanagement that have been a hallmark of the past four years. You must take responsibility for the manipulated evidence that led to the war in Iraq and the terribly inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina; forswear the policies and practices of torture and illegal surveillance; and take concrete steps to distance yourself from the corruption and scandal that is implicating members of your administration and old business associates.
You must announce an exit strategy from Iraq and Afghanistan. This should encompass the withdrawal of our soldiers by the end of 2006, leaving the region clean of U.S. military bases. The growth of bases in the two countries is a key reason why Iran has increased its militant rhetoric.
A moral presidency demands a firm commitment to the peoples of the world that their lives will be free of foreign aggression and occupation. Let us seize the momentum from the recent democratic elections in Iraq to show the Middle East and the world that the United States is not an occupying empire or a bullying superpower.
On the domestic front, the nation’s economic health should be a top priority. The gap between rich and poor Americans has grown to historic levels, with the richest five percent making almost 1,500% more than the poorest 20 percent, and CEO’s making 431 times more than the average worker. Couple this with the skyrocketing cost of energy – the price of oil is now approaching $70 a barrel – and you will understand why many people are getting desperate.
What can you do? Start by doubling the national minimum wage from $5.15 to $10.30, which will at least approach a living wage. Then acknowledge that your tax cut policies don’t help anyone except the wealthy. Last year, two million jobs were created, but this was less than 40% of what your Council of Economic Advisors had predicted, and only half what a normal job growth figure would have been without the tax cuts. Specifically, you should call for a reinstatement of the Estate Tax, which even many rich Americans (like Bill Gates) have acknowledged was a fair tax on their wealth.
We know that health care is a major concern for you. Seize the moment! Now is the time to call for a universal health care policy for the United States. There is no good reason why we, the wealthiest nation in the world, are also the only industrialized democracy that doesn’t have health coverage for all its citizens. We are very concerned by reports that you seek to further privatize the system, rather than creating more governmental support for the least of us – those who cannot afford what is currently offered.
Are you worried about the budget implications? This recommitment to health care, the reconstruction of the region around New Orleans, a strong environmental program, and a balanced education policy (like a fully-funded No Child Left Behind act) are all eminently possible. Once you steer the nation away from wars of aggression abroad, some of our bloated, $400 billion-plus military budget can be reallocated towards education, renewable energy, and economic development. Creating a strong social safety net and a healthy population must be a top priority, since we cannot afford to be “Left Behind” in the competitive marketplace of global skills.
Mr. President, as a man of faith, you are certainly aware of the words of the prophet Micah, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?” This nation and the world could use some justice, mercy and humility right now. We look forward to your State of the Union address tomorrow as an opportunity to help our country respond to Micah’s challenge and regain our spiritual compass.