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An open letter to Sen. Al Franken on the tax bill

Dear Sen. Franken,
 
Thank you for your letter yesterday, telling me that the vote on the tax bill was the hardest you have taken yet. I appreciate your clarity about your dissatisfaction that President Barack Obama  “punted on the first down” and enumerating the factors that caused you to support the bill despite that dissatisfaction.
 
I am a Unitarian Universalist minister. Unitarian Universalists, like Jews, center much of our faith in the practice of asking questions. I find that I have some deep questions, and when I talk to friends they don’t seem to really know either, so I thought I would ask them directly to you. These are not rhetorical questions; I would love answers!

Here are my questions:

  • How did 60 become the necessary number to get anything passed? Why is the need for a filibuster-proof majority presumed? Until 2008, it seemed as if, in general, majority meant 51 votes.
  • In the next Congress, are the Democrats going to play by the “rule of 60” as well?  If not, since you initiated the sports metaphor, I’ll use it, too — can you really play a game when the two teams play by different rules?
  • You say that the president vows to fight these tax cuts for the rich harder in 2012 than he did in 2010. How could he possibly be more effective fighting in 2012 than in 2010?
  • What was the hurry to pass the bill? What would another week have cost? Why didn’t the Democrats let things grind into a standoff, and allow the American people to have time to notice what was happening with this bill, instead of rushing through this vote? 
  • To what extent are both parties controlled by the interests of the wealthiest few?
  • When you voted, did you talk about long-term analysis of how this bill will ultimately affect the lives of those suffering from financial crisis, and the increasingly fragile middle class? 
  • You cite the Minnesotans who are suffering now who will get some concrete benefits in this bill — crumbs that will stand between them and starvation. I understand your care for them as impetus for authorizing this bill and truly understand what a difficult position you were in. But what will keep those people afloat down the line as wealth centralizes more and more?
  • Why wasn’t there an organized resistance to extending and increasing the wealth of our richest citizens, where religious people and poor people and unions and the rest of the American majority stood up and spoke with moral voices? 

I realize that this last question is addressed not to you, but to me, and to my peers. As the minister of a congregation of 3,500, many of whom are suffering from joblessness, lack of health care and other increasingly common problems, I am grieving that this vote happened on my watch as a religious leader. I would like to join a broad multifaith effort in lifting up a morally grounded time of lament and repentance.

Sen. Franken, you are a true and consistent voice for progressive values, and I could not be more proud to have you as my elected senator. But I despair. I fear that this vote will continue to erode everything that we hold dear, and move this country further yet in the direction that “we the people” truly means “we the corporations and the wealthy.”
 
Sincerely,

The Rev. Meg A. Riley
Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Rev. Meg A. Riley is Senior Minister, Church of the Larger Fellowship.

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 12/15/2010 - 09:35 am.

    Rev. Meg A. Riley,

    I have a question for you.

    How can Senator Al Franken be a “true and consistent voice for progressive values” and support the Bush tax cuts for the rich and powerful?

  2. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 12/15/2010 - 02:00 pm.

    Dear Rev. Riley:

    Regarding your point …
    “You say that the president vows to fight these tax cuts for the rich harder in 2012 than he did in 2010. How could he possibly be more effective fighting in 2012 than in 2010?”

    … I’m afraid this is very much akin to the situation where the doctor tells the patient, “Uh, I’m going to clean up this serious wound to your leg now, put some cool-looking bandage on it. Later, I’ll come back when gangrene has set in and go from there.”

  3. Submitted by Robin Edgar on 12/15/2010 - 06:25 pm.

    “Why wasn’t there an organized resistance to extending and increasing the wealth of our richest citizens, where religious people and poor people and unions and the rest of the American majority stood up and spoke with moral voices?”

    Good question Rev. Riley and. . . since you acknowledge that this question is addressed to you and to your peers (presumably other “religious professionals”) what if anything did you and other Unitarian*Universalist ministers do to *organize* resistance to these tax cuts for America’s richest citizens? Why did you and other Unitarian*Universalists fail to stand up and speak with moral voices about these tax cuts well *before* the vote House and Senate votes took place? Could it possibly be because you were all falling over each other organizing somewhat questionable resistance to Arizona’s recent attempts to curb *illegal* immigration?

    Were you all so busy “standing on the side of love” for *illegal* immigrants that you were unready, unwilling, and apparently quite unable to “stand on the side of love” for those perfectly legal American citizens who are “suffering from joblessness, lack of health care and other increasingly common problems”? Come to think of it Meg isn’t *illegal immigration an increasingly common problem in the U.S.A.?

    Why are you “grieving” that this vote happened on your watch as a religious leader? Could it be because you know that you and your Unitarian*Universalist peers dropped the ball on this particular issue? I dare say that you and other Unitarian*Universalist ministers might be very well advised to engage in “a morally grounded time of lament and repentance” for your own sins of commission and sins of ommission, not the least of these sins being the Unitarian*Universalist religious community’s past and onging genuinely *lamentable* mishandling of clergy misconduct complainst of ALL kinds, including but by no means limited to some quite egregious clergy sexual misconduct. When will you and other U*U ministers get around to lamenting and repenting your peers negligent and complicit mishandling of clergy misconduct in The U*U Movement and then providing some long overdue restorative justice to ALL victims of U*U clergy misconduct?

    Have U*U clergy no shame?

    Perhaps I should not have asked *that* question considering just how hubris filled U*U clergy and UUA leaders seem to be. . .

  4. Submitted by myles spicer on 12/16/2010 - 09:55 am.

    Sadly, this whole issue is much bigger than Franken and even Obama. It goes to the heart of what we thought (and hoped for) would be a course altering change in American politics. What we have gotten is “same old same old” politics as usual with powerful corporatist infulence and domination.

    The country is on a slippery slope in so many ways now — and in the end we have NO leader to take us out of this morass.

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