Congress Today: Who Does it Really Represent?
With U.S. approval of Congress holding steady at a whopping 15%, one wonders just who it is the elected representatives are representing. Perhaps we can answer that question, by looking at some of their recent activities, and considering some of the things currently left undone.
- Health Care: The House of Representatives has voted 37 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which insurance companies do not particularly like. The Act makes it so much more difficult for them to raise rates and deny coverage, which may, sadly, cut into their astronomical profit margin. So what if the Affordable Care Act means people with pre-existing conditions can get coverage? Who cares if young adult children, either not able to find employment or working jobs without coverage, can remain a few extra years on their parents’ policies? What difference can it possibly make to anyone if poor families are able to provide their children with basic health care? The House must guard corporate profits; who, after all, does it represent if not Corporate America?
- Gun Control: The Senate recently voted down a rather benign bill that would have banned assault weapons, and tightened up a few gaping loopholes in background checks. Now, just because polls consistently show that the majority of U.S. citizens support such laws, why on earth would that encourage the Senate to pass them? Does the common citizen have the lobbying clout of the National Rifle Association? Does he/she have the funds necessary to purchase individual senators? Members of the Senate are not stupid; they know who they represent, and it’s certainly not the voters.
- Student Loans: There are people in the U.S. who think it should be less expensive than it currently is for people to obtain a college education; members of the House of Representatives are not numbered among them. They have passed a bill that would prevent the interest rates on student loans from exceeding a mere 10.5%. The Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, on the other hand, wants to extend by two years the current rate of 3.4%. And Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has gone even farther, proposing a shocking piece of legislation: her bill would allow students to take out government loans for education, for one year, at the same rate banks borrow from the government, 0.75%! Well, she’s new to the Senate; in time she’ll learn just who it is she is there to represent. Presently, she seems naively to believe it’s the voters! What does she think this is, a democracy?
- ‘Scandal’ Investigations: In November of 2010, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said this: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Well, we all know he fell somewhat short of that lofty goal, but one must wonder why, with all the pressing problems the U.S. faces (crisis in education, decaying infrastructure, high unemployment, massive debt, growing poverty, increasing crime, perpetual war, etc., etc.), Mr. McConnell couldn’t think of something more constructive to do than try to defeat the incumbent president; perhaps, for example, trying to pass an employment bill, which might include funding to hire people to rebuild roads and bridges. Most of those issues have only grown in the last three years. But rather than do any of that, the House of Representatives is busy studying what exactly happened in Benghazi, why the IRS investigated Tea Party Groups, and the Justice Departments subpoena of journalists’ records. This writer doesn’t wish to downplay the importance of these issues, but again, polls show that most citizens don’t see them as top priorities for their so-called elected representatives.
While the House and Senate are busy playing their political games, hatred toward the U.S. is increasing with each drone strike; political prisoners continue to languish in the Cuban-based, U.S. torture chamber; the educational achievement of U.S. students continues to fall behind that of the students of many other nations; poverty and crime continue to plague almost all U.S. cities. Yet those elected ostensibly to represent the citizens seem to have a ‘let them eat cake’ attitude; they themselves are doing well, with easy, well-paying jobs with almost no accountability, so why rock the boat? Grandstanding and working to discredit a hated rival are so much easier.
For the past several years, political polarization and the gridlock that results from it have been on the increase, but the current political situation brings it to absolutely ridiculous heights. After the gun control vote, one senator at least announced that, while he supported the law, he didn’t want to give President Obama a victory. No, he would prefer, apparently, to give millions of Americans a defeat. And that seems to sum up the attitude of so many members of Congress.