The following was written by Maureen Cruise a long time Democratic activist after attending Congressman Henry Waxman's January 3, 2010 Townhall Meeting.
Whatever one's political orientation, our legislators are our employees, funded with our tax dollars, whose job is to represent our collective interests in the nations capitol. It is essential to maintain communication. That said.....the following commentary represents my personal views and not those of any organization to which I belong.
Not all of the democratic constituents attending the Waxman appearance are "like minded" nor feeling "warmth" for our congressman. More like "heat" for some of us. This was the first public meeting in our district in two years, despite requests from various democratic clubs and civic groups. Mr. Waxman's main residence is in Maryland, not Los Angeles and he receives more than 90% of his fundraising cash from outside the district. (Source OpenSecrets.org and MAPLight.org)
Whatever 'liberal Democrat' Waxman once was, he no longer is. His prepared speeches are nice to hear and the 'charm' is palpable. But people's lives are hanging in the balance and reality lies in votes and legislation, the action and the inaction of his office. Traditional democratic values are not being served. Many longtime Democrat activists are feeling betrayed on a number of levels.
Henry Waxman's Energy and Commerce Committee boasts the current congressional and senate record of 141 revolving door relationships of former lobbyists working as staffers and of committee staffers turned industry lobbyists who are involved in advising and writing policy, legislation and those thousand page bills. This drives the nature of policy and resultant crafting of legislation, which seems to be increasingly corporate friendly, and less in service of the needs and well being of the American people. There are six lobbyists per legislator in DC, spending millions everyday peddling the interests of their industries.
Polls repeatedly indicate the majority of Americans are opposed to funding the current US wars. The California State Party opposes funding the Afghanistan surge and urges withdrawal. Henry Waxman has voted for every war budget over the last 10 years and was an apologist for Bush's wars. In 2005 Waxman denied awareness of the existence of the 15 permanent US bases being built in Iraq and he defended the dropping of tens of thousands of cluster bombs and landmines on the urban population of Baghdad as 'helping" the Iraqis. These actions are illegal under the Geneva Conventions and were condemned worldwide.
At home, these trillion-dollar war ventures are breaking our economy, stripping civil society and destroying our children's futures. For what?
Waxman also supports the unacknowledged illegal bombings of Pakistan and Yemen populations by CIA drones...not even the Pentagon is in control! The CIA is supposed to be an intelligence gathering organization and is now 70% outsourced to private companies. Worse, these are often foreign companies employing foreign consultants and fighters. Congress has not only abdicated to the executive branch it's constitutional responsibility for declarations of war, it sends billions of our tax dollars to private mercenary corporations, and abandons our nation's "state monopoly of force" to foreign agents to wreak havoc on other populations without congressional oversight or accountability. How does this serve our security? Our sovereignty? Where are our legislators?
ECONOMY and BANKS
A war budget hurts everyone except the weapons industries and the billion dollar contract mercenaries we buy with our tax dollars. We are starving our public institutions, infrastructure and services. In the face of this squeeze, Waxman voted for the huge TARP bailout and windfall for private banks, without any congressional oversight on the use of those tax dollars. People are left without the ability to renegotiate mortgages and are losing their homes while billions of our tax dollarrs are being doled out for private corporate acquisitions, investments and obscene bonuses. These bonuses alone total around $33 billion...more than our state budget deficit. This is our treasury being looted. Where is our congressman?
Waxman's house bill is and always has been basic WEALTHCARE, promoting insurance not healthcare. This bill enriches the already wealthy Insurance industry with public mandates, installs no financial caps and does not solve the problems of affordability, access and quality that plague our dysfunctional 'non- system'. People with insurance will continue to suffer bankruptcy due to medical costs and will continue to be denied care. There were 45 million denials of treatment to California insurance policy holders over the past six years. Services will still be cut to generate profits while premiums, copays and deductibles will rise without end. This 2,000 page bill is another corporate industry bailout at public expense without commensurate public benefit.
Once again, Californians overwhelmingly support a single payer healthcare system which has passed our state legislature twice and is endorsed by the California State Party Platform. Waxman voted to defeat the Kucinich Amendment which would have assisted our state and others with implementing the only system that works and will be emerging again as SB810. Waxman removed his support from Conyers HR 676 and blocked it from being heard in congress. The 2,000 page house healthcare bill was written in large part by insurance industry staffers and a revolving cadre of members related to special corporate interests, particularly Wellpoint and United Health in the senate committee. 2 million dollars a day was spent on lobbying legislators establishing private profiteers as "stakeholders" whose financial benefits must be given consideration and weighed against the actual needs of American people. It's all our money, coming and going, public or private. It came from our pockets and is going to a system designed to take more and give less.
CLIMATE and ENERGY
The heavily amended 1,400 page 2009 'Cap and Trade' House climate bill sponsored with Congressman Markey, seems to do little to prevent continued pollution and actually rewards the dirty coal industry, the unsustainable oil dependence and promotes the dangerous nuclear industry. This trades protecting natural eco system forests, rivers, and watersheds with planting tree farms. Burning trash is considered clean energy and releasing carbon for decades to come is a "trade". There is little in this bill to assist the development and proliferation of clean renewable and sustainable energy sources. We are now in a serious emergency state of climate crisis. Waxman chides others for not believing in this crisis but his bill belies any genuine concern for the serious, immediate and catastrophic nature of this issue.
CIVIL LIBERTIES and CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS
Our congressman voted for the Bush era Patriot Act of 2001 and for the establishment of "Homeland Security" with yet another unaccountable hefty 'secret' budget scheme using our tax dollars to purchase private contracts with minimal disclosure. In 2007, Waxman voted for HR 1955, Rep. Jane Harman's "Homegrown Terrorism Act", a bill highly controversial for it's assault on our constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. Legal analysts, law professors and civil liberties scholars have condemned this legislation for criminalizing belief, dissent and public protest as well as promoting draconian surveillance of internet communications without warrants by eliminating the protections of the FISA requirement. The NSA is currently constructing enormous mega- center surveillance facilities in Texas and Utah using super computers to collect information in the septillions storing Yottabytes and using complex algorithms. How can congress protect our constitutional rights to privacy when these secretive massive facilities using automated domestic "surveillance on steroids" are functioning at full throttle, virtually without congressional oversight?
Speaking of OVERSIGHT...what ever happened to the respect for the Constitution and the rule of law and justice in using some of that evidence collected by Waxman's former committee to bring those who abused their positions and willfully lied to the American people about the facts leading to invading Iraq and Afghanistan as well as imprisonment without representation, trial or legal rights and the inhuman and illegal torture of prisoners. What about the Bush administration's illegal wiretapping of US citizens without warrants, sanctioned by "war is good for business" Rep. Jane Harman who is championed by Henry Waxman. What has happened to the recent investigation of Harman's 'secret deals' (which were wiretapped!) with Israeli foreign agents to pressure US congressional committees for favors?
Let's remember that legislators serve at the behest of the people they have been elected to represent. Mr. Waxman is our employee. We pay his salary. healthcare and benefits and that of his staff. We worked and voted to have representation in DC. We must remain alert and aware of job performance. Are we being represented? Are our employees fulfilling the terms of our contracts? If not, we are in danger of exchanging our status as citizens for that of subjects. Will we become sharecroppers on the company farm allowed to accrue never ending debt at the company store? Or will we remain "we the people", citizens of a democracy who exercise collective sovereignty within the borders of our nation? From Plato to Jefferson to 2010...knowledge, vigilance, information and participation have been the key to that answer. "We the people" must decide. And we must act.
Maureen Cruise is a registered nurse and an activist. Ms. Cruise is the 41st Assembly District Delegate and Executive Board Member of the California State Democratic Party. She is also on the LA County Democratic Party Central and Pacific Palisades Democratic Club Board Healthcare Liason, Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, Healthcare for All / California OneCare-LA Steering Committee California State Progressive Caucus Healthcare Strategy Group, Palisadians for Peace, UTLA Human Rights Committee, Coalition for Alternatives to Militarism in Our Schools (CAMS)