Our place in history ...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

From talking the talk to walking the walk...



(Unai Montes-Irueste, February 2006)

When next you sit in front of a computer with access to the world-wide-web, type the following phrases into your favorite internet search engine: “Vision for California’s 24th Congressional District,” “Future of California’s 24th Congressional District,” “Tomorrow in California’s 24th Congressional District,” “Direction for California’s 24th Congressional District”…

Your search will yield zero results.

This is because for the last two decades, our representative in Congress, Elton Gallegly, has placed the desires of the elite and extreme wing of his party’s leadership before those of We The People. The exclusive and wealthy cadre he has aligned with have handed him campaign funds and lobbyist dollars—every two years since 1986—to pay for pollsters, messaging marketers, and political consultants to help him remain on a payroll we fund with tax dollars (that don’t provide what they did but a few years ago).

In exchange for his job as a career politician, Gallegly has been asked to not provide a direction for the District, or speak of what tomorrow should look like here and in the United States of America; to avoid imagining a future for California, and vote as he’s told instead of defining a vision for the Americans who sent him to Washington D.C. with the hope that if given one more term in the legislature of the oldest and most vibrant multicultural democracy in the world, one more chance to lead the greatest force in the global economy, he could… But he didn’t… And he won’t…

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”~ Robert F. Kennedy

The United States of America is a place where destiny is a journey shared, and shaped, and remade by ordinary people who become extraordinary leaders when they act on the belief that against seemingly insurmountable odds, a more perfect union is formed when we establish justice, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, as well as secure the blessings of liberty. People around the world know the story of the colonists who overthrew an empire for the sake of this idea, and for 230 years men, women, and children have left Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa—by choice or force—and dedicated their efforts, many surrendering their very lives in heroic military or public service, to the construction of the American Dream.

The building of this collective dream has often advanced slowly and imperfectly—it was scarred by our treatment of Native Americans, betrayed by slavery and segregation, sullied by the marginalization of women, Asians, Latino/Hispanics, and poor whites; tested by wars and economic downturns, the threat of nuclear winter, and terror—yet, brick by brick, rail by rail, calloused hand by calloused hand, people dreamed and keep dreaming, and built and keep building. A generation ago men like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and César Chávez, and women like Coretta Scott King and Dolores Huerta, worked and marched, addressed and petitioned our government, boycotted and sacrificed their safety and health until America was made a land where the question of our place in history is not answered for us, it is constructed by us.

Now, I’ve worked through the politics, economics, and social pressures of construction consistently for the last 13 years. Believe me when I tell you, building is often difficult… But it can be done… And it must be done now…

Technology and globalization have combined like never before. And while commercial advertisers and politicians have asked us to focus only on how much easier technology has made our lives—after all, we can send emails back and forth, place and answer telephone calls, keep an agenda, surf the web, listen to mp3s, as well as send and receive instant messages, using a machine small enough to fit in a jacket pocket—we’ve been asked to ignore the multinational-corporate revolution that has dictated which barriers stand and which barriers fall in the process of connecting the world’s economies. Recent public policy priorities have encouraged businesses to relocate, (and move jobs) not only wherever they find factories, but also wherever they find internet-connections.

Countries like India and China quickly realized this. They understood that they were no longer confined to the role of underdeveloped nation only able to serve as source of cheap labor or cheap exports. They wanted to move to a position from which they could compete with us on a global scale—in every arena. Initially, (not that long ago, in fact) they lacked the human capital, the professional people to make it happen. But they started schooling their kids earlier, for longer periods, and placed a greater emphasis on mastery in the areas of math, science and technology. Soon, China and India’s most talented students were able to compete with skilled, educated workers in the USA. Pursuit of a higher standard of living became no longer synonymous with migration here.

China, for instance, is graduating four times the number of engineers than the United States is graduating. Today, accounting firms are emailing tax-returns filed by residents and citizens in the United States to workers in India who can figure them out and send them back as fast as the average tax specialist in California is able to. Yet, despite all of the evidence at our disposal that the American dream can be once again constructed, there are far too many in the Senate and House of Representatives in Washington D.C. who believe that there isn’t much we can do about our current disadvantages as a nation.

They hold that the best idea is to give everyone in the top 1% of income-earners one big “pass Go” without having to pay their fair share of our national obligations, and that it is ok if CEOs make 500 times what workers due year after year, wave of massive layoffs, after wave of massive layoffs.

They hold that the rest of us need to express gratitude for the nominal refund check we get from this government—a government that asks us to trust its wisdom despite a chaotic Iraq, an aggressive Iran, and a Homeland Security department that couldn’t clothe, feed, or keep the people of New Orleans from drowning in waters filled with disease, misery, and despair.

They hold that indictments in the Office of the President and the United States Congress; no-bid contracts and millions and billions of dollars misspent, mismanaged, and missing money do not represent a “culture of corruption.”

They hold that family values and responsible government mean preserving the estate tax for those handing down fortunes of over $3.5 million at all costs and the “ownership society,” as opposed to investing this revenue in the information technology, nanotechnology, and biotechnology sectors of the American economy, lowering the impact of our record debt and deficits, and addressing the glaring needs of the working poor and the middle-class—needs not solved by divvying up nominal refund checks.

Nominal refund-checks do not provide 47 million Americans with healthcare, cover the costs of a generation of retiring baby-boomers who are need Social Security to keep them out of poverty now that corporation after corporation has abandoned its commitment to the pensions designed to serve as the principal retirement plan for workers; it doesn’t cover the costs of childcare, higher education, home ownership, or make life any easier for the countless men and women who have been sent off to war without the body armor, the protection from improvised explosive devices, (IEDs) and the exit strategy needed to bring mothers/fathers, sisters/brothers, sons/daughters alive, with all their limbs and veteran’s benefits that more closely approximate the level of service and willingness the members of the armed services deserve for what they risk and sacrifice. Their bravery and devotion should not be manipulated for political gain.

With my Nephew, a graduate of Annapolis, and, a cousin, a Marine now in Iraq, cause our family to struggle with the many decisions this Administration and Congress make and maintain. Because we disagree, it does not mean any of us are any less patriotic. All of us have benefited from being residents and citizens of the United States. We love our country.

Government research and investment made the railways possible and the internet highways. From the Northwest Ordinance to the Homestead Act to the New Deal to the National Highways Bill and Civil Rights legislation, the public policies prioritized by the federal government of the United States have played a leading role in the creation, expansion, and maintenance of a massive middle-class. Most Americans belong to the middle-class because of wages and benefits and schooling that allowed us to prosper.

Our economic dependence depended on individual initiative and innovation. It depended on a belief in the power of free markets. But it also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, the idea that everybody has a stake in this country—that we’re all in it together and everybody deserves a fair shot at community, inclusion, and opportunity. This is what has produced our unrivaled political stability. If we do nothing to construct a calculus capable of confronting the current face of global economic opportunism; if we refuse to build a better bridge to bring fundamentalists out of the business of worldwide terror, then we surrender the American dream… And betray the next Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and César Chávez; Coretta Scott King and Dolores Huerta, all of whom might very well be sitting together somewhere in California’s 24th Congressional District at present, wondering if they’ll ever learn to read now that the funding for integrated preschool support that includes family literacy has been reduced by 56%, praying their parents will win the lottery so that they can pay for college in an America of ever-increasing tuition, Pell Grant elimination, escalating student loan interest rates, and crippling levels of individual and family debt.

We recently celebrated the birthday of the reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the passing of Coretta Scott King. In many ways, they exemplify the best of a life and mind involved in social, political, and economic affairs; the best public face of Christianity in the recent history of the United States. Organic intellectuals, proponents of nonviolent resistance, they held out the only slim hope for social sanity in a violence-ridden world. If prophets are sent to edify, exhort, and console; figures who make others uncomfortable because of the radical way they live the Gospel, yet speak of faith and love because they point to peace and reconciliation, then in spiritual terms there is no more fitting description for these two. And yet, like all great prophets, their teachings and example hold real value and worth in the context of the secular world as well.

I am passionate about this call to run for office. Those who know me know that I must forever stand true to my egalitarian principles. This is not about office, dogma, or even Party. I wish to serve the working-class and middle-class communities I have known and made my living among for the duration of my life. But I by no means wish to remain in Congress for a generation or more. I am a minister, a person of the cloth, an unapologetic Christian. But I believe thoroughly in the “separation of church and state,” the right of each woman to choose concerning her reproductive freedom, and the legal protection (not prosecution) of same-sex couples who wish to commit themselves to one another until death do them part. There is a difference between moralistic acts and moral actions. A Constitutional Amendment comprises the former. It is rhetoric, a Golden Calf of words. This is a time for moral actions. Scripture, the foundation of my moral activity calls us “To do unto others as you would have them do to you.” We are called to actively participate in making the world a better place for all. We are responsible to and for each other. We are “our brothers keeper.”

The American dream is an inspiration to all oppressed peoples around the world who struggle for human rights, democracy, freedom, and equality. My campaign for Congress is the next logical and heartfelt step in a life dedicated to championing construction coalitions between conservatives, liberals, and moderates; building the bridges of community, inclusion, and opportunity that allow the for-profit, nonprofit, and public sectors to work together in partnerships that are complementary and symbiotic (instead of combative and zero-sum). Everything during this campaign and during my time in Congress will focus on what needs to be done to truly make families stronger, (to protect sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins) and to actualize our priorities, (by committing the necessary time, energy, and resources to make them tangible). I served as shepherd to affordable housing construction efforts that both yielded the income necessary to spur further building and adhered to the prevailing wage and overtime incentives to work with organized labor without conflict.

My work united churchgoers and secular persons, people of color and whites, men and women, the affluent and the socioeconomic poor, the political left, the political right, and the political middle behind common goals. I led with integrity. And when I did what mattered most was not my female gender, or my Mexican-American heritage, or my title in the Presbytery as Reverend. Because like the vast majority of citizens and residents in California’s 24th Congressional District, and throughout the United States, I believe deeply in, and try to live life by moral acts, I am compelled to think about, bear witness to, and act on enhancing the plight of the poor, the predicament of the powerless and the quality of life for all—as Americans have done for 230 years.

Support my election to Congress and when next you sit in front of a computer with access to the world wide web, and type the following phrases into your favorite internet search engine: “Vision for California’s 24th Congressional District,” “Future of California’s 24th Congressional District,” “Tomorrow in California’s 24th Congressional District,” “Direction for California’s 24th Congressional District”…

Your search will yield results—and you will see them everywhere in the District.

And if a problem should arise that falls outside of the expertise, experience and expectations I walk into Congress with—using energy independence, IT, biotech, and nanotech to generate jobs in the USA; strengthening our national defense by speaking truth to our citizens, our soldiers and our allies; establishing honesty and integrity in government, (effectively ending the culture of corruption) and creating healthcare and education systems that work for every American so we can once again champion community, inclusion, and opportunity in this country—I have a plan:

Be one with greatness. Rise to the occasion by repeatedly reconnecting with my commitment to serve. Face the aspect of the problem of greatest concern and impact. Confront the hopelessness it calls forth in others. Search for root causes, remedies, and treatment for present needs. Move courageously. Solve the problem.

• An adequate level of health care is guaranteed to everyone and made affordable and accessible for all citizens and residents—especially the 47 million currently uninsured—by managing the cost of premiums, co-payments, and deductibles.

• Health care services are affordable to middle-class and working-class families because we crack down on the waste, greed, and abuse in the healthcare system that costs families up to $1,000 a year on inflated premiums.

• We empower each American to pick his or her own doctor—and patients and doctors, not insurance company bureaucrats, make critical medical decisions.

• We empower Medicare and others to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors by supporting the purchase of less expensive prescription drugs from countries like Canada.

• Patients with the assistance of doctors make medicinal health decisions, not insurance companies—the cost of medicine never determines if one gets needed treatment or not.

• No matter where you work or how many times you switch jobs, you have healthcare so you have the flexibility to move to a better job or start a new business.

• We commit to the idea that health care is not a privilege for the wealthy, the connected, and the elected—it is the right of every American.

• We invest $10,000 in each child to give each child a Head Start, Early Start, Smart Start, the best possible start in life.

• Schools produce students capable of meeting the highest of academic standards. We prepare every child in America with the education and skills they need to compete in the global economy.

• Teachers aren’t forced to be babysitters, but properly paid and trained to empower youth to succeed in an economy driven by nanotech, biotech, and information technology.

• We demand full accountability from parents, teachers, and schools in exchange for a federal guarantee to reduce class sizes and treat teachers like the professionals they are.

• We make sure all our children are safe in the afternoons after school.

• Students are encouraged to attend college, and parents can afford to pay tuition.

• We give tax credits to families for each and every year of college.

• We value an America that controls its own destiny because it’s finally and forever independent of Mideast oil—we stop risking our economy and our national security by relying on foreign countries for fifty-three percent of the petroleum we consume (so that no young American in uniform will ever be held hostage to our dependence on oil).

• Alternative fuels and hybrid vehicles are not only researched, but 100% used—our energy plan provides for a stronger America by investing in new technologies and alternative fuels and the cars of the future

• We provide incentives to revitalize manufacturing so the most cost-effective, resource-efficient alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles are manufactured in the United States.

• Environmental policy and business growth are linked in every conceivable way.

• We protect those who protect human rights by contributing the necessary assistance to prevent human trafficking, genocide, and further spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

• We find a breakthrough to cure Parkinson’s, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and AIDS

• We believe in science and unleash the wonders of discovery like stem cell research to treat illness and save millions of lives.

• Instead of cutting budgets for research and development and science, we fuel the genius and the innovation that will lead to the new jobs and new industries of the future.

• We provide emergency food, clothing, shelter, and medicine directly to those in need.

• We protect the pensions and Social Security benefits of those to whom they were promised, and develop a fair strategy to deal with the needs of future retirees.

• No matter where you work or how many times you switch jobs, you have a pension that stays with you always, so you have the flexibility to move to a better job or start a new business.

• Tax cuts and tax incentives benefit middle class and working class families.

• We invest in the technology and innovation sectors that will create the good-paying jobs of the future—such as IT, nanotech, and biotech.

• We disincentivize outsourcing and reincentivize domestic job creation.

• Top income earners pay their fair share of military, homeland security, health care, education, infrastructure, deficit reduction, debt repayment, foreign aid obligations.

• We vote against making the rollback of tax burdens for the wealthiest individuals permanent (including the estate tax) and invest in job creation, health care and education.

• We return to fiscal responsibility because it is the foundation of our economic strength— cut the deficit in half by ending tax giveaways that are nothing more than corporate welfare (government should live by the household budget rule: pay as you go).

• We establish a moratorium for raising taxes on the middle-class and working-class.

• We reduce the overall middle-class tax burden by reducing small business taxes.

• We reduce economic inequality and create opportunity for all by rewarding businesses where both workers and shareholders benefit from profit margins, not companies where CEOs earn 500 times more than the average employee after instituting massive layoffs.

• We commit to building a stronger national defense by increasing funding for the equipment our military needs (body armor for soldiers and tanks, for instance).

• We develop and fund a counter-terrorism program that incorporates the recommendations by the 9/11 Commission (especially the proposed funding and training for the officers and firefighters expected to rapidly evacuate urban populations, keep the peace, and connect evacuees with those distributing food, medicine, and other emergency resources).

• We build stronger families by supporting good parents, holding deadbeat dads accountable, and reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies—our commitment to protect the right to individual privacy and preserve the legality of reproductive freedom does not mean that we should not strive to make abortion as rare as we possibly can.

• We allow consenting adults involved in same-sex relationships to enter into legal agreements that afford them the same medical and property rights as married couples.

• We have a leadership that is as good as the American dream—so that bigotry and hatred never again steal the hope and future of any American.

• We don’t walk away from the challenge of the American dream—a challenge that focuses on much more than simply making a buck, for that alone would show a poverty of ambition—a challenge that we take up as a nation, not because of our debt to those who helped us in our lifetime and lifetimes before, (although that debt is present) but because the individual dream, depends on the collective one, and it is only when we attach ourselves to something greater than ourselves that we realize our true potential.


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