I am here today to remind you of why our government was founded.
Our Founding Fathers, in the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, wrote:"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…"
Our forefathers set up this government to secure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for its citizens -- all of whom would be treated equally. That is the purpose of this government.
Our government is not fulfilling its purpose. You, as our representatives, have failed in your responsibility to us. It is time to correct that.
My mother does not have "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Right now she is crippled with Multiple Sclerosis, barely able to function. What would change that? A medicine that costs $10,000 a year.
I am blessed with prescription coverage from my employer. My life partner, Tom, does not have any such coverage. If we were married, he would have prescription coverage through my employer. As you have formed the laws, all men are not created equal.
My sister Genevieve is flat on her back in bed recovering from retinal surgery. Was it our government that provided her with the eye-saving surgery that will help restore her "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?" No, my mother used her meager life savings to pay for Genevieve’s operation.
What is the common thread running through my family’s existence? We have a government that has turned its back on its reason for being. A government that works for the few at the expense of the many.
Is my family unique? Hardly. The Economic Policy Institute calculates that fully 31% of total stock assets are owned by the richest .5% of Americans -- 89% of stocks are owned by the richest 10%. What about the rest; the other 90% who have just 11% of the nation’s wealth? Ronald Blackwell, a union representative, puts it fairly clearly: "This is the first recovery in the postwar period in which wages are still falling in the fifth year of the recovery… what’s going on here is a redistribution of income from employees to employers, from people who work for a living to people who own. And that makes for social divisions that are going to breed political movements that compromise the environment within which businesses exist. That’s what we’re fighting now. America is coming apart at the seams, because it’s getting so much more difficult to make a living in America by hard work."
Blackwell’s statement rings particularly true as we hear more and more of the spread of organized militias which believe our government has lost its original vision.
What would help restore faith in our current government? A return to our Founding Fathers’ intent for the government: Fostering equality, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
How do we do this?
First off, in order to hear the voices of the 90% of Americans who own only 10% of its wealth, we must have true campaign finance reform. Otherwise you will continue to primarily represent the minority who have the money to get you elected.
Second, we must restore and expand our civil liberties. Too many rights have been eroded in the last decade or so in the virtuous name of "law and order." One particularly egregious example is allowing illegally obtained evidence to be used in court. And then there are those rights that have never been acknowledged. By this I specifically name the right of gay and lesbian citizens to be treated fairly and equally by our government, though I do not exclude other groups also seeking equal treatment.
Third, to promote life and liberty, we must have universal health care coverage. Without it, people such as my mother – currently confined to her home because she cannot afford a medicine – do not have true freedom. Without it, people with AIDS who cannot afford protease inhibitors have no life. The list goes on and on. The United States is the world’s richest nation, yet the only developed nation without it. Clearly our government is not working for all its people.
And last, explicit AIDS education will provide the unalienable right of Life for our children.
I appreciate your time.
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