Maybe we’ve been going about this whole thing with Congress the wrong way. Rather than getting dyspeptic, angry, tremblingly frustrated with its antics, or lack thereof, maybe we should try just sitting quietly knee to knee, and explaining to its members what exactly they ARE doing by doing nothing.
Which is to say the entire country seems to have finally sighed, decided that nothing good can come of its opposition, and may as well wait until the autumn of 2014 to make its voice heard. That would be fine with us if we believed that the voters of our country could remember for more than a few weeks at a time the injustices, stupidities, slights, and laziness of the 535 men and women inhabiting the halls of Congress, being paid an average of $174 thousand dollars a year just to smile at the cameras and laugh at the idea of any meaningful action.
Representative Charlie Dent, a Republican from Pennsylvania, says, “Washington is clearly broken.”
Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, asks his colleagues, “Why are they here?”
What is now taking place, by inaction only, is damage from which millions of Americans will not soon recover.
If Congress leaves D.C. at the end of the year without, for example, acting on just two items on its agenda, the pain, financial depression, emotional exhaustion that will follow will be gigantic.
Without acting on what is commonly called the “doc fix” before year’s end, reimbursements for medicare providers treating Medicare recipients will be cut sharply.
What that is going to mean in January 2014 seems clear, and dire. In order to retain their income levels and perhaps even their service levels, doctors – and other health providers such as hospitals and nursing homes – are going to increase their fees. Who does this hurt? All of us over sixty-five who are not only enrolled for our health care with Medicare but who depend on reasonable (or at least more reasonable) co-payments for services rendered.
We do not have a figure for the number of millions of elderly and disabled who will either have to come up with extra scratch, regardless of their income level, or postpone, perhaps even do without doctors’ visits, surgeries, treatments for chronic illnesses.
That’s item number one.
Item Number two is the failure to pass for the first time in years a Farm Bill, which will mean – as the Medicare failure hits the elderly – that millions of younger people with families in need will have to get along with increasingly smaller payments in food stamps, especially since we are told that the price of milk will sky-rocket. The Republicans want to cut $40 billion dollars’ worth, while the Democrats can see their way to cutting just $4 billion.
This at a time when millions of people around the country have yet to recover from what was euphemistically called the Great Recession in which pensions disappeared, stock market investments evaporated, home values took a nose dive. We used to be told that our homes were not only our most important asset, but that in a crunch, we could always sell our homes and move on, but that the damage likely wouldn’t be permanent. That damage is now permanent. Many who do manage to sell a home cannot thereafter buy a home comparable. And certainly they cannot continue to afford to feed their families when their jobs have been lost or downsized or made temporary, when the minimum wage is far from livable (which, to be honest, it wasn’t designed to be).
What Congress by its inaction is creating is a permanent under-class of people without expectation, without the energy to pull those damned boot straps, without hope.
As Representative McGovern of Massachusetts said “I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have a farm bill that doesn’t increase hunger in America.”
Since we are knee-to-knee here and speaking in quiet tones, is it too much to ask whether Members of Congress have parents who are on social security or Medicaid? Is it too impossible to imagine Congressional family members hungry, without adequate employment to take care of their families? Is it too much to ask our own representatives to stay in Washington for more than 110 days a year to work the country’s business? Is it too much to ask that the people we have elected to represent us in Congress actually do so?
If every other member of Congress is a millionaire without a social conscience, what hope have any of us?
We are not shouting now, we’re asking questions somberly and quietly. Perhaps a change in tone and volume from us can change the tone and volume of the vitriol and partisanship that is day-to-day reducing our once great country to the level of a second rate outpost of civilization.