This week, in Congress, politics as usual, and partisan gridlock, made the news again. The House used a parliamentary maneuver to avoid a vote on the Senate’s two month extension of the payroll tax break. Then they all went home for Christmas. The payroll tax cut expires on January 1, without any extension or legislation to extend it. And that’s that.
I don’t think we really need any more reminders that our Congress, our elected legislative branch of government, collectively does not have the slightest understanding of the people they represent. But here we have an action which not only clearly and concisely points this out, but which also demonstrates something even more disturbing. They don’t really care.
The blame for this specific lack of action falls at the feet of a group of newly elected House freshmen Congressmen, a small minority who represent a small minority of people, labelled as the “Tea Party,” though there is not necessarily a caucus or connection between them. Together with some other more experienced members of the Republican party, this group knows that the only way they can get their way as a minority is to force their agenda by blocking things that need to get done. And agenda clearly outweighs the interests of the American people, or at least, of the majority of the American people who have to get up and go to work everyday to earn a living. That is something that most members of Congress, including a significant number of the newly-elected, do not have to do. So a small tax break in their paycheck each week, which means a lot to working families, means nothing to them.
But this is not just a problem related to this specific issue. Congress is composed of people who, for the most part, live a completely different life than the rest of us. It is a millionaire’s club. I don’t think that was the intention of the founding fathers when they put all of this together, though many of them also lived in a lifestyle that was well above the common people around them. But the fact of the matter is that the representative government of the United States consists of elected officials drawn from about 1% of the population on an economic level. Not only does that prevent them from understanding what the rest of us do on a daily basis, it prevents them from representing our interests and protecting our way of life. They don’t really know us well enough to know what to do. And that crosses party lines.
The only solution I know of is to go back to the ballot box and make a change. The job approval rating of the House of Representatives is about 8% right now. That should indicate that few of them will be able to retain their seat. Unfortunately, that’s not always the way it works out. We don’t like Congress, but that doesn’t necessarily mean our congressman. It’s everyone else’s congressman that we want to see put out of office. There is some consolation in noting that polls are beginning to show that a fair number of the recently elected House freshmen are in trouble in their districts, and that some of them may not be returning after the 2012 election, but whether or not that ends the gridlock, or makes enough of a change to make a difference, who knows?
In the meantime, you and I will continue to bear the burden of paying the bills.