American Friends Service Committee
Sara Burke, Managing Editor
Sam Diener, Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
An Open Letter to President Bush
Martha Yager is an AFSC staff member in the New Hampshire office.
Dear Mr. President,
Since the attacks in September 2001, you have placed the issue of terrorism at the center of your administration's policies. I am writing today because terrors of a different nature are haunting many Americans and needlessly jeopardizing our nation's future. Fortunately, you can fight them by changing your administration's spending and tax priorities.
There is terror in being homeless. With median two-bedroom rental costs of over $900/month in New Hampshire, almost half of renters pay more than 30% of their income for housing. Yet your administration sponsors large cuts in housing assistance and has not raised the minimum wage despite the growing numbers of workers among the homeless. A layoff or unexpected medical expense is enough to send a family into a downward spiral ending with eviction.
There is terror in losing your job -- especially when losing your paycheck can mean losing your home, health care, and savings. Yet there has been a net loss of 3.3 million jobs since you became president. Your policies have fueled unemployment while leaving millions of Americans without unemployment or health insurance.
There is terror in facing illness without insurance. A child's high fever or a cancer diagnosis is frightening to anyone, but when that comes with lack of insurance, it is terrifying. Yet on your watch, the number of uninsured rose to 43.6 million people last year. All signs point to a further increase this year.
There is terror in waking in the night to the smell of smoke. Two years ago, you hailed firefighters as heroes. We know that every minute counts in a putting out a fire.
Closing fire stations puts people in danger. Yet all around the country units are facing job cuts and stations are closing because of budget constraints.
There is terror in watching innocent men, women and even small children murdered by stray bullets. Last year more than 3,000 children (ages 0-19) died in gun violence in this country -- about the same number of people who died in the terrorist attacks. Yet no massive effort is underway to stop this nightmare. Instead your administration proposes cuts in community policing, the one law enforcement initiative that people on the street credit with making the streets safer.
We cannot continue to let resources for housing, jobs, healthcare, education and public safety be hijacked.
It does not have to be this way, Mr. President. These are terrors that we know how to address. But you have simultaneously made huge tax cuts that benefit millionaires while waging a war in Iraq growing ever more costly in lives and dollars.
When people in this country plead for adequate funding for housing, health care, education and jobs, we are told that there is no money and we have to cut expenses. Yet you were quick to give costly insider contracts in Iraq to Vice President Cheney's former employer, Halliburton, and other corporations that contributed to your campaign. It is tax cuts coupled with war spending, not spending on meeting human needs, which has plunged us into deficit.
You can stop the terror, Mr. President. Yes, we have obligations in Iraq. To meet them you should stop putting up roadblocks to the United Nations and use a competitive bidding process that allows Iraqis, other nations, and non-profit and multilateral institutions to fully participate.
Repeal the tax cuts for the upper 1% of the population, which would provide $750 billion in the next 6 years. Use the savings for housing, health care, and infrastructure, all of which will create jobs.
I wish that I could have the opportunity to speak with you directly about these concerns, but attendance at your visit here is by invitation only.
I do hope that on a future visit you will respect ordinary New Hampshire voters enough to hold a free, open meeting so that you will have a chance to meet with people who know the terror of unemployment, uninsured illness, and homelessness.