Dear President Obama: Preserve our government

Dear President Obama: Preserve our government

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Negotiations are coming down to the wire on the fiscal cliff. Friends of the Earth warned about the dangers of a bad deal and we are still concerned. That is why Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica wrote President Obama and urged him to preserve the role of government in protecting the environment, public health and social welfare. The text of the letter is below:

December 28, 2012

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

On behalf of our members and activists I write to urge you not to accept a reduction in our government’s ability to protect the most vulnerable in society as a means to avoid going over the fiscal cliff. Subjecting the federal budget to draconian reductions would be the wrong approach to resolving our nation’s finances. Another round of significant cuts to non-defense discretionary spending, or cuts to our social safety nets, will undermine our country’s ability to care for those most at risk and to invest in the country’s future needs.

In your first term you strengthened our government’s ability to provide for those in need, and helped avert future crises. Passing health care reform, the stimulus package, and financial reforms are proud accomplishments but they may be undermined by broad cuts to the federal budget.

Deeper cuts to non-defense discretionary spending or entitlement programs would remake government for decades to come and risk the integrity of critical programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – putting the security of all Americans at stake. Talk of cuts is coming at a time when we need to begin a massive government mobilization — the likes of which has not been seen since World War II — to have any chance of avoiding the worst impacts of catastrophic climate change. If government protection for those most in need is eroded, it is difficult to imagine our country coming together to avoid climate change or to deal with its impacts.

We are not broke; in fact, we are the richest country in the world. We have the resources to hire teachers, provide school lunches, and to deal with climate change. Of course we should spend our money wisely, and significantly decreasing the size of our military budget is part of achieving this, but we cannot allow ourselves to lurch into deeper austerity. It is our government’s investments in its citizens through education, nutrition, and environmental protection that has helped us get through difficult times in the past and which currently makes our country the most vibrant nation in the world. We need those who can afford it, the richest Americans and corporations, to begin paying their fair share, rather than suffering the pain of another round of destructive cuts.

We call on you, in the budget debates, to clearly articulate the benefits that government should bring to our society and how we can pay for it. For too long the public discourse has been abridged by the pace of hasty negotiations, hijacked by the rhetoric of budget deficits, and underpinned by anti-government sentiment.

While you have at times expressed a vision for how government should help people, actions that you have taken — such as your executive order suggesting regulations kill jobs, your freeze on compensation for federal workers, and agreeing to the Budget Control Act — have reinforced the notion that government is ineffective and wasteful. It is imperative that now, at the start of your second term, you stand up to those who would see the role of government whittled away by expressing a positive vision for government.

The American public is with us. Only weeks ago, they went to the polls in large numbers and empowered you to push for a government that protects the least fortunate. Now it is up to you to fulfill your mandate. We urge you to reject the language of the fiscal cliff, deficits and austerity and to articulate a different path for our country. We can preserve the ability of our government to provide the services we expect in the future and we need to start by making the wealthiest Americans and corporations pay their fair share.


Erich Pica
Friends of the Earth

Photo credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

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