Chicago Clergy to Dick Durbin: Don’t Deal Away Our Most Vulnerable!

Had the honor this morning to participate in an interfaith ceremony at Chicago’s Daley Plaza that called on Illinois Senator Dick Durbin to resist devastating cuts to Federal programs in the upcoming “fiscal cliff” budget talks.  It was quite a dramatic and inspiring gathering, organized by IIRON, Make Wall Street Street Pay – Illinois and other local organizing initiatives. Over 40 members of the Chicago clergy community marched to Daley Plaza, where we encountered two Golden Calves symbolizing the idolatrous motivations behind Wall St. greed and wealth disparity. After hearing from several speakers, one of the calves (a piñata, as it turned out) was smashed open, gold coins scattering in every direction.

We didn’t focus on Dick Durbin simply because he happens to our senator.  As the Majority Whip for the Democratic Party, Durbin is one of the most important players in Washington, officially charged with leading the Democrats who control the Senate. And thus far, there is ample reason for concern that his leadership bodes ill for the more vulnerable members of our society.

Since Congress has kicked the budgetary can down the road, critical social programs in this country stand to lose $600 billion dollars on January 1 unless they choose to act. Durbin has already indicated that he favors a “grand bargain” with Republicans that may entail cuts to Social Security, Medicare and/or Medicaid. Just as ominously, Durbin has still not signed an open letter written by Congressmen Harry Reid and Bernie Sanders (and signed by 29 senators) calling on the members of Congress not to cut Social Security.

For our part, the interfaith community of Chicago has written a letter – to Senator Durbin:

Dear Senator Durbin:

Our message to you comes from Deuteronomy 30:15-19 & Joshua 24:15 as we ask you “to choose this day whom you will serve…!” We urge you to choose life and to reject “Simpson-Bowles” or any other “grand bargain” that cuts vital services to vulnerable Americans. We urge you to make absolutely to make absolutely no cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

Working Americans did not create this economic crisis or this false and manufactured “fiscal crisis”. Wall Street’s speculative bubble, made possible by Congressional deregulation crashed the global economy. As a result, the American people have suffered unemployment, underemployment, foreclosure, homelessness, and have lost their savings, retirements and wealth. Congress used working people’s taxes to bail out Wall Street banks instead of assisting underwater homeowners, creating jobs or rescuing state and local governments. The people have suffered enough. Doing further harm to working people is morally unconscionable.

It is immoral to make any further cuts to vital federal programs and services when wealthy individuals and big corporations are not paying their fair share to care for the broader community of whom they are part and on whom they rely. In this time of unparalleled income inequality and concentrated wealth, we will not accept any solution to the federal budget deficit other than raising revenue from those who have not done their share and can easily afford to do much more.

The kinds of cuts being discussed under Simpson-Bowles and other “deals” will literally result in sickness and death for many and will fall upon the poor and vulnerable in order to provide for the excess for the wealthy.  Senator Durbin, you now face a choice between serving the false gods of greed and excessive wealth or implementing policies that promote life and shared prosperity. It is important that as a key leader in the Senate you stand firmly on the side of those who stand to lose so much.  Therefore we bring to you four demands:

– Block any reductions in benefits for Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid

– Block any extension of the Bush Tax Cuts for people with taxable income above $250,000 per year

– Block the “sequestration” cuts to domestic programs set to occur in January 2013

– Support progressive sources of taxes including a robust estate tax, taxing capital gains at a rate equal or higher to wages and pass a strong Financial Transaction Tax (aka the Robin Hood Tax)

To Chicago residents: A myriad of local organizing initiatives is holding a rally on Friday, November 9 in Pritzker Park (State and Van Buren) at 3:00 pm. Together we will tell our elected officials: “We Won’t Pay for Your Crisis!” and demand that the wealthy and big corporations must “Pay Their Fair Share”.

3 thoughts on “Chicago Clergy to Dick Durbin: Don’t Deal Away Our Most Vulnerable!

  1. Wendy Carson

    as i said that I wish i could be there heart is with you all.Taking away vital services from those who need them so badly is not what I would excpect Se. Durbin to have anything to do with.he was brought for his progressive stand on issues and he must not let down the people who worked and voted him into office.

  2. Murray Leiter

    In Canada not so long ago ago we faced financial downgrading to near third world status as the result of massive debt and deficits here

    The federal and provincial governments of the time took the tough road of cutting back spending by huge degrees, laying off thousands of public servants, curtailing defense budgets, raising taxes aggressively and reducing benefits to the public in every sphere Canadians realized the urgency of the measures and most accepted this with understanding and cooperation

    Today Canada has the probably the healthiest economy of the G7 other than Germany

    Perhaps our good American neighbours have to consider that it’s time to do the same?

    As you say, no pain, no gain

    Murray Leiter, Email:

  3. Steve H

    Our spending levels are not sustainable. It is going to fall on our political leaders to make very tough choices. Is it more moral to keep spending levels where they are and eventually allow a society to fall into a financial crisis? I haven’t the slightest idea. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough rich people to tax us out of this problem.

    It pains to me to see wise and thoughtful religious leaders drawn into political activism while their movements are often in decline. The membership statistics on the mainline Protestant movements have been well documented. Jewish assimilation trends are also well documented. Yet the movements have two of the greatest pieces of “merchandise” ever – the Torah and the New Testament and the rich and varied traditions that have sprung from them. Perhaps it is time to focus on rebuilding these movements and the sharing the wisdom their movementsb can provide rather than choosing sides in the political debate?


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