Say It Ain’t So, Nancy

Surely you don’t think the security of corporations is in greater jeopardy than the security of the American people?
Your opposition to President Bush’s tax cuts and his Iraq resolution raised our hopes that your election as House Democratic Party leader would put an end to unprincipled compromise.

We were dismayed, therefore, to read in the New York Times the day after your victory: “Ms. Pelosi’s new role may be influencing her positions on issues.” The Times was referring to your vote to create a Department of Homeland Security, which you had opposed before the election. This is dismaying on three counts.

First, the bill passed by the House enables offshore corporations that evade American taxes to contract with the Homeland Security Department. It also protects from liability companies that make faulty antiterrorism devices. Surely you don’t think the security of corporations is in greater jeopardy than the security of the American people?

Second, the bill emasculates union representation by allowing the President to exempt organized workers from collective bargaining in the name of national security. Surely you don’t question the patriotism of American workers, which the President seems to do?

The bill greatly limits civil service protections of workers in the new Department. Before the ink was dry on the bill, the administration announced that it would privatize almost one million other federal jobs, denying workers protection in hiring, promotion, and firing. Surely you don’t want to see workers denied civil service protections that were initiated 120 years ago?

Third, supporting a Homeland Security Department and arguing that the Bush administration is not doing enough to counter terror (as some Democratic Senators recently asserted) will neither improve the well-being of the American people nor protect our civil liberties. Many more Americans will die from unemployment, homelessness, and lack of health care than will be saved by “security” measures. Surely you don’t want to ignore FDR’s New Deal, particularly in this time of recession, and put corporate welfare above social justice?

We hope this feeble beginning as House Democratic leader is just an aberration and that you will revert to the course you have so ably followed during your years in Congress. Unprincipled compromise to out-Republican the Republicans portends a dismal future for the Democrats in 2004.

Neil A. Holtzman, M.D.
Baltimore, MD         

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This story was published on December 4, 2002.