For Political Progress We Need Serious Action: By Us

If things are going to change for the better in this country, my fellow Dems and I need to take some some action, starting with refusing to believe that it’s enough to gripe about Republicans on social media. In my humble opinion, we’d better take a page out of our opponent’s playbook and quit talking and take action.images

America needs to make a strong come back and it’s not going to happen with Republicans in control of the House of Representatives and with DINOs running scared every time a Republican jumps out from behind a bush and says we suck. Jobs are scarce, incomes are falling, and prosperity seems to be slipping away. Congress could help a lot, but instead of bold new bipartisan ideas, the nation’s legislators have done little lately except argue. And there are good reasons  why Congress is so out-of-touch.

About one percent of all Americans are millionaires, and about half, 46 percent, of those serving in Congress are as well. There’s nothing wrong with being rich. I’d love to be rich. But there is a problem when the people creating tax and economic policy fail to understand the financial stress a typical family faces. And there’s a problem when most of those same members of Congress, mostly on the conservative side of the see-saw, could care less about the pain and starvation of millions of Americans they are supposed to represent.

Every year, members of Congress get an automatic cost-of-living increase in their pay, which is now $174,000 per year—about 3.4 times as much as the average worker earns. For the last two years, Congress has voted to forego its annual raise. But even flat pay would be a luxury to millions who have endured pay cuts, been relegated to part-time status or lost their jobs.

Members of Congress are eligible for two types of retirement plans and a retirement healthcare plan that in nearly every way are more generous than benefits typically offered to private-sector workers. One research group estimates that fringe benefits alone are worth about $82,000 per year to a federal legislator.

In addition to generous pay and gilded benefits, members of Congress enjoy a long list of conveniences and other perks, including free parking at their workplace on Capitol Hill, and at priority lots at Washington, D.C.’s two airports. They’re special, you see. But try and give even a modicum of necessities to the people who actually work for a living and still can’t make ends meet and the GOP goes catatonic. Somewhere along the line, we went from having a Congress for the people to a Congress of out-of-touch millionaires.

Congress has temporarily banned  pet spending projects, which evade ordinary budgeting procedures and often amount to home-district favors for donors or supporters. But some lawmakers want them back. The test will come in 2014, when the next Congress will either extend the ban or revoke it and start delivering overdue favors. To make these kinds of deals is especially outrageous when millions are out of work, additional millions homeless, and even more millions working, but still living in poverty because of third-world minimum wages for the average worker while the top 1% enjoys record increases in income.

Some Congressional speeches broadcast on cable are given before an empty chamber in the Capitol, simply because politicians know they might get on TV. Expanded TV coverage of Congress has been a welcome bit of sunshine, but it also encourages posturing and sensationalism. Ted Cruz is a a master of media manipulation and has used it for his own self-promotion almost as effectively as Sarah Palin. I will never forgive John McCain for catapulting such an unworthy, contemptible person into the American lexicon.

In the private sector, competition is supposed to punish the obsolete and reward those who deliver. The GOP-driven House of Representatives, however, holds a monopoly on legislating, so it still operates by ancient procedures and lingers indefinitely on urgent matters. There’s no measure of effectiveness for the body as a whole, and some members insist that gridlock—a euphemism for accomplishing nothing—is in the nation’s interest. The GOP has offered no jobs programs, no healthcare reform alternatives to the ACA, has voted 48 times to repeal the ACA, and has accomplished only the ridiculous renaming of numerous post offices while hypocritically trying to shut down the USPS in favor of privatizing a U.S. institution since its founding.

Members of the GOP sometimes reveal a dangerous degree of ignorance on vitally important issues they have considerable power to regulate. This year, for instance, the science journal Naturesaid a House committee had “entered the intellectual wilderness” on climate science, and The Economist called Republican debt-ceiling negotiators “economically illiterate.” They routinely call for drug-testing anyone who requires public assistance, yet can’t even name the capitals of the 50 states. A test should be designed for any candidate seeking public office, but it wouldn’t see the light of day since the very idiots that would fail such a test are in charge of passing all federal laws. Circular logic is a distinct favorite of GOP representatives.

For every member of Congress, there are about 22 registered lobbyists who donate money, throw fundraisers and manipulate legislation to the benefit of corporations and interest groups. Some of the most powerful lobbyists are former members of Congress, who form a “shadow Congress” more influential than pressure from voters. The conservative, most activist Supreme Court in history has repeatedly made absurd rulings that favor more power to corporate and wealthy political influence( read: money) and fewer and fewer rulings that would favor one person, one vote principles that fuel a real democracy.

Journalists, bloggers, and pundits jump on every argumentative word in Washington, while underreporting key issues like unemployment and poverty that matter more to real citizens. This makes politicians even more narcissistic and combative, since they know they’ll generate coverage if they say something controversial. It’s the exact opposite of what was intended by the constitutionally protected rights of the once-respected and trusted fourth estate.

Politicians manipulate voters every day with half-truths—or outright lies—about taxes, spending, and many other issues that directly affect the nation’s prosperity. Too many voters embrace feel-good propaganda that they want to hear, instead of learning the basic facts about issues they care about. The broadcast media has become caught in the vortex of profit over substance and should do a better job of calling out dishonest politicians—and shunning media outlets that stoke political food fights.

I’m betting that it would take a total collapse of the country to bring about any of these changes, and even then the probabilities of attaining meaningful change remain slim at best. If we want to make a difference, if we want to counteract the effect of a few billionaires who want to keep everybody stupid, if we want to get the homeless, the jobless, the underpaid, the women and minorities in this country out from under the thumb of the wealthy few….we need to take action…now, not in 2016.

 Harvey Gold