Winning and Losing

 

In today’s economic world, defaulting on millions of dollars of obligations is peanuts.

Now we are completely accustomed to thinking in terms of trillions of dollars lost, misplaced, misspent.

In today’s political world, listening to gaseous lawmakers ignoring the concerns of our citizens is commonplace.

Now we are completely accustomed to a Congress that cannot and will not do anything to assist the nation recover from its economic woes, or even to look at the future to avoid more of same.

In the scheme of the Greater World, whether or not our postal service works is of very little importance. After all, we have unemployment to consider, off-shoring and off-loading to think about, plans to continue defrauding unsuspecting investors to uncover.

We have women’s health under fire, from birth control to abortion. We have blocks of voters ignored, pandered to, or worse, increasingly unable to exercise their Constitutional right to vote in an election.

We have a nation divided increasingly, and it seems to some, permanently, over a raft of ideas and theories, none of which can be proven or tested, and none of which are being addressed by our current Congress. How Wall Street operates, insurance companies, health care, pre-emptive wars, incarceration of forty per cent of black men rightly or wrongly. The matter of our energy needs runs like a hamster on a treadmill, getting nowhere. No one seems to know or care whether the nation as a whole can even begin to think of paying for fuel for the upcoming winter. And while the financial breaking point for poor families of four may increase slightly, due largely to cost of living increases, the poor are getting poorer and have few if any prospects of working their way out from under mountainous amounts of credit-card and personal debt.

All of the above could have been addressed by a Congress elected to serve its constituents. Perfect solutions might not have been found, but better solutions could have been offered. And — for those who devote hours each day to being assaulted by television commercials – there is no such word in any dictionary as “solutionism.”

Amid all the uncertainty of the future, we face an increasing cyber-threat, which accounts for “old-fashioned” holdouts who refuse to bank electronically, or register their bank accounts with Social Security. People are fearful.

The Post Office debacle?

Small potatoes.

Only that’s not true.

In many towns and smaller cities in the country, the Post Office is the center of community spirit, community action, community information. Whether or not the Post Office has been privatized matters not. Since the Republic’s founding, we have depended on its services and been proud of its record.

Most of us, anyway. This current Congress, leaving this week for a five week vacation to be spent campaigning and resting from their exhausting work on the hill keeping good things from happening, now undoubtedly claims the title of worst congress ever, meanest,  least effective, most partisan, idlest. They care neither for the Post Office’s troubles, nor its motto, nor its services to rich and poor alike. Nor, to be fair, about a hundred other matters pending and pending and pending.

Congress was the participating founder of the Post Office’s default this week, just as Congress could have been a participating member of salvaging it, saving it, reforming it.

Yahoo News tells us that in the past 18 months, the 112th Congress has introduced 60 bills to rename post offices. Thirty-eight of these passed the House and 26 have become law. Not a single bill has come to the floor of the House aimed at reforming a Postal Service which is bleeding millions because of Congressional mandates.

In view of the coming elections, what kind of insanity compels us to put back into their chairs our own house members who have so grievously offended?

Why would we vote when we know what the outcome is likely to be?

Well, of course, the single reason we do, and today just about the only reason we do, is that we’re Americans and we believe in one man one vote democracy.

We hear – every two years – that voters approve of their own neighborhood’s representative to Congress. Their opinions of others’ are far more severe than of their own. In some states, voters actually know, meet, and have business to do with the help of their House member. And house members have astonishingly good staffs. Try contacting your own House member and you will receive – and this is nearly a guarantee – a thoughtful and swift response.

And yet. House members of both parties are lemmings. On the right they’re terrified of losing their seats to a challenger deemed more conservative than they are. On the left, they are terrified of seeming too critical or combative, lest voters see them as part of the problem, not a possible solution.

Washington is August is hell. We know. We’ve lived there. There is every good reason to take your family to the hills or lakes and hide out until September.

But not when the nation’s business has been unaddressed for a year and a half.

The Post Office default, courtesy of mandates levied upon the service by Congress itself, is only one more instance of Congress ignoring the concerns of its constituents.

What can we do?

Well, we hate to suggest this because it makes us sound libertarian, or even, God forbid, too much like the Tea Party. But here is one solution. Vote for no current House member of either party.

This may mean, alas, having to think a bit, research, listen and learn the opinions of other candidates, and probably holding your nose when you go behind the curtains in November.

This also posits the stopping of sending checks, small or large, to incumbents. The business we as individuals have to do with our representatives is rarely so big and important that we, along with thousands of other lobbyists, need to keep financing their five week holidays when the country needs leadership. Worse, when the country has voted for leadership and discovers that the leaders elected have no intention of leading, anything.

Is something like this possibly effective? Don’t we as individuals care about women’s health services, health care generally, overseas involvements, Wall Street shenanigans, defense spending?

You know what? A letter or an email to your representative is going to be as effective as any message you could send. A check for twenty-five or a hundred dollars is icing on their cakes. That money is folded into funds and pockets that cannot distinguish between the twenty-five bucks of Joe Doe or the thousand dollars sent by his uncle. Both will be instantly invited to contribute more.

And to what purpose? To be ignored in favor of the representative’s safe choice in voting on the floor.

What do we lose? Earmarks the country can no longer afford. Sex scandals. Insider trading.

What do we gain? Perhaps half a dozen representatives truly devoted to the American electoral system. But from tiny acorns….

A lack of continued funding for federal officers whom we elected is perhaps the best tool we have to make our feelings known. Not one representative is going to ignore the fact that his or her war chest is nowhere as big as it used to be. This is a message people will understand, unambiguously. It’s called “starving the beast.” Even with Citizens United providing loot for every level of participatory politics, if the PACs are forced to carry every candidate, they are not going to be happy. They’ll feel the withdrawal symptoms as painfully as their minions.

If Congress cannot draw lines in the sand, we can.

And we certainly should.

 

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