Monday, April 8, 2013

Take Our Country Back...from Congress!

Congress is lazy, pampered, ignorant, undignified and snobbish. Did I leave anything out? Should I have added "greedy", "selfish" and "evil" to the list? I couldn't have said "honorable" or "humble" or "honest". I would have been lying.

As was quoted in another post: "'Woody Allen once famously said that, “90 percent of life is just showing up.” Our members of Congress apparently aren’t big believers in this philosophy. Congressional absenteeism is hardly a new problem. In the last 10 years, the House averaged only 135 days in session per calendar year, while the Senate averaged only 160. But in recent years, it has reached tragicomic proportions.'"

If we miss a day of work, we get fired. Or least have our paychecks docked.

And when members of Congress do show up for work, it's usually not on behalf of the American people, but for themselves.

Estimates reveal that many members spend anywhere from 25 percent up to 50 percent of their time fundraising, especially as an election approaches. All this time spent fundraising could be better spent meeting with constituents or working to solve our nation’s many challenges...rather than being on a semi-permanent vacation for half the year while millions are suffering.

And when members of Congress aren't too busy fund raising to get themselves re-elected, they might be partying like it's 1929 at lush affairs, such as at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner --- rubbing elbows and having cocktails with Hollywood celebrities, comedians, fashion models, media elites and corporate CEOs.

Or maybe they'll be toasting to themselves at one of their own ritzy Annual Congressional Dinners. Sometimes K Street gets a little too boring, and a change is occasionally needed.

But yet, many members of Congress complain, that they work too hard, or that they work too many hours, and/or that they are struggling to get by on their meager $174,000-a-year salaries. Not to mention, very generous health care plans, pensions, and all the other perks that comes with holding high office (allowances, congressional digs, travel, mail, etc.)

According to a report by the Taxpayers’ Protection Alliance and Our Generation, members of Congress make 3.4 times the salary of the average American worker, and their benefits bring the total package to $285,000 a year. Members of Congress are among the top 5% in America; and are also among the highest paid politicians in the world.

But yet, still they complain, just like the cry babies on Wall Street do. (It's hard to watch a grown man cry.)

The nation's poverty rate is frozen at a high of 15 percent. And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, for the most part, aren't even talking about it. (Hello!!! Can you hear me now?)

The statistics are staggering. According to the Census Bureau, the nation's poverty rate is at its highest level in decades. More than 46 million people -- one in seven Americans -- are living below the poverty line, 16.4 million of them children. Another 30 million Americans are just a lost job or serious illness away from joining them. And in the last six years alone, more than 20 million people have joined the ranks of those relying on food stamps to get by.

Meanwhile, the rich are only getting richer. Income inequality in the United States is greater now than at any time since 1929. It has gotten so severe that, according to a report by the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, low-earning workers in the United States are actually worse off than low-earning workers in all but seven similarly developed countries.

Now Congress is talking about austerity policies for everybody else, who were already decimated by the Great Recession. As it's been noted at the HuffPo, from a political standpoint, it's not hard to see why lawmakers wouldn't want to talk about poor people. Poverty isn't the most glamorous topic. It's not something you'd discuss at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner. The poor and middle-class don't have the powerful lobbying groups behind us that can make or break someone's reelection.

Poor people can't afford $50,000 a plate at those swanky fundraisers that people such as Mitt Romney tend to frequent. And God forbid that anyone in Congress should actually have to punch a time card before reporting for duty to do The People's work.

Jason Easley from Politicususa once pointed out that even though House Republicans are going to be in session for only 126 days in 2013, they are still demanding their full $174,000 salary. They want the same amount of money for less work. In the REAL world, it's just the opposite. American workers are expected to do more for the same money. This is how we reward failure in Congress now. Meanwhile, the wealth gap between congress and voters is growing.

At least President Obama had the decency to make a gesture, and offered to return 5% of his pay to be in solidarity with the furloughed federal workers. (I wouldn't expect him to be in solidarity with the unemployed...that would be too undignified for a sitting President of the United States of America).

Half of Congress are millionaires already, but even Nancy Pelosi said that she opposes a cut in congressional pay because "it would diminish the dignity of lawmakers' jobs." --- Ahhhhh, excuse me? Did you say DIGNITY?!?!?!? Homelessness might be undignified, not serving the will of the American people when you have the honor to hold public office.

Here's what REAL working Americans are going through these days. Phil Richards, who drives a forklift at a warehouse for Unified Grocers in Santa Fe Springs, is required to wear a headset through which he is told what to do and how quickly he must do it. Phil says, “We’re just like human machines.".

Unified Grocers, which supplies food to grocery chains including Vons and Gelson's, trimmed its payroll by 25% from 2002 to 2012 --- but also managed to increase their sales by a whopping 36%.

Many companies such as Unified Grocers had learned a lesson during the Great Recession: If there are fewer people and the same amount of work, employees will find a way to get it done...because they're literally fighting for their livelihoods.

Van Bebber, the senior vice president of operations of Unified Grocers, says, "If everyone does a little more, that can mean one less employee you have to hire. That's one less health and welfare package." (Yes, we are the 47% sir. We need food and shelter please. And healthcare would be nice too.)

What about Phil Richards' dignity Ms. Pelosi? Hey? But ignorance is bipartisan. Republican Sean Duffy said it was a “struggle” to pay his mortgage and student loans with his congressional salary. “At this point, I’m not living high on the hog.” You poor, poor, man!!! Hear! Hear! Give that man a damn raise!!!

In 2010 it was reported that Nancy Pelosi's rent on her San Francisco district office is $18,736-a-month --- the highest in the House. The rent (which is part of Pelosi's budget and funded by taxpayers) is nearly double the next-highest rent in the House: Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y). pays $10,600 a month for his Manhattan office, while representatives from Sacramento, Boston and Los Angeles pay nearly that much.

But yet still they loudly complain (or quietly ignore us), as though our problems could never be their problems...they represent their constituents...which to them, are only their largest campaign donors, not the masses that vote them into office.

In a recent New York Times article it says, "More than half of Americans are saving too little to support an adequate lifestyle if they plan to retire at 65." But how the hell can they? According the Social Security Administration half of all Americans in the workforce only earns $27,000 a year or LESS. So how can they be expected to save anything at all when 100% of their earnings are needed just to live on?

Can Congress live on that? I think not. But us mere mortals are expected to...AND be grateful that we have that! (We can be such ingrates sometimes!)

But then again, if the GOP had their way, we'd be forced to break out back until the very day until we dropped dead at work.

Before members of Congress start cutting the minimum wage, cutting taxes for big business and the ultra-rich, cutting federal employees’ salaries, taking food away from babies or cutting food stamps for the abject poor, or getting rid of benefits for veterans and cutting seniors’ Social Security, or trying to limit over-time pay for REAL workers who do REAL work, lawmakers who have been fear-mongering about the deficit and the debt should put an end to their own Congressional entitlement and extravagance. They can start with their own salaries and benefits.

Aren't our honorable "leaders" supposed to leading by example? Would "leading" this nation or sacrificing for this country be so undignified? Or do the members of Congress feel that, by acknowledging and/or representing the poorest among us, would actually be admitting to their own failures and their lack of ability to lead at all?

And it's not just the Republicans. Some Democrats are trying to roll back the Dodd-Frank bill, a few voted against raising the minimum wage, and even the President is considering using chained CPI on the disabled and seniors who rely Social Security (as if their incomes weren't meager enough.)

And as Congress fiddled while the people suffered, Congress made sure that the American taxpayers (many who are unemployed) gave Washington D.C. a very generous economic boom.--- complete with $1 million-dollar bus stops! "A Bridge Too Far".

Oh, and I almost forgot. If these lazy members of Congress ever screw up, and the American people get on to their game, and they end up losing their elections (even after all that fancy-pancy fund-raising on company time), guess what --- they loot the damn treasury and give everybody on their staff a big fat raise before letting the door hit them in the ass on their way out!

Didn't the damn banks do enough harm to us already? Do you people in Congress have to go and add injury to insult to more injury? What did we ever do to you?

How's that for taxation and spending without representation? Tells us, how will you, in Congress, also make this noble and grand "shared sacrifice" that you expect us all of us peons to make. Hmm?

It's a travesty that the Democrats are ONLY NOW complaining about "wealth inequality" while the Republicans have been trying to "Starve the Beast" for decades, when you BOTH write the tax laws, going back to 1921 for capital gains, which has been one of the main drivers for our debt and income disparity.

You BOTH allowed the outsourcing of jobs, ceding to the will of your corporate sponsors. You BOTH caused the last recession and allowed the banks to have a free reign over this nation. You are BOTH equally guilty for the misery you bestowed upon the American people and you BOTH rigged the elections so that The People can't initial any real change to rest control from the top 1%. You BOTH waged a class war on us. We were just working hard and trying to survive...and we still are, despite you.

I believe that if the American people REALLY knew the truth about most of the members in Congress, those hypocritical icons in the House and Senate wouldn't just have an histrionically low opinion rating, the American people would most likely be storming the ramparts right now and shouting, "Off with their damn heads!"

(* Hey, I can always fantasize, can't I? And if you disagree with me, then you could ONLY be a member of Congress.)

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