I’ve had it up to here with partisan, selfish politicians.
Now that we’re past the Columbus Day national holiday, now that Congress took its week-long break for the one day of Rosh Hashanah, I’ve got a message for them: It’s time to get back to work and do your jobs.
That is, if you even remember how.
Because it’s clear to just about everyone that you’re not doing your jobs. Our current Congress is a most ineffective, dysfunctional bunch of legislators with the lowest approval rating on record.
At the heart of the issue is the divide so wide between extremists in both political parties who refuse to compromise a whit or give an inch on just about any issue. A lack of interest in bridging this gap effectively stalls any productive change and deprives attention to the people most in need of help: you and I.
Unemployment is steady at 9.1 percent, and shows little hope of improving (even at the incrementally snail-paced rate projected by the ill-fated jobs bill) with any meaningful significance. Median household income is falling, even further since the recession “officially” ended in June 2009. The domino effect is hurting everyone, whether you’re employed or not, as we see ripples in consumer spending, banking, housing sales and elsewhere.
Congress is out of touch with what the majority of the voters want and need. And on the surface, it’s understandable why they are: Our members of Congress make at least $174,000 a year in salary, before perks and other benefits, some lasting a lifetime even after they’ve left office. Without even considering potential income from a spouse and other sources, that income alone puts them roughly within the top 7 to 8 percent of the earners in the United States.
Looking at it another way? In 2010, more than half of the U.S. Senate members were millionaires.
Why feel the urgency when you personally aren’t feeling the pinch?
There’s little incentive for them to come up with solutions that not only help those less fortunate than themselves, but also represent compromise—an approach long forgotten with this current Congress. In fact, compromise has become a dirty word, given that the bulk of the supporters the legislators hear from are the most polarized interest groups in both parties.
Ideologically extreme elements at either end of the political spectrum are shouting the loudest and with the help of the 15-minute news cycle, the most “out-there” voices are the ones getting the bulk of the attention. And thanks to the country’s primary system, pleasing and appeasing the party loudmouths is really the only way to continue to stay in a congressional seat these days.
Have you noticed that with the swing elections of the last few cycles, legislative action has taken a vindictive tone? We-can’t-let-them-get-away-with-it sentiment seems to be more of the motivating factor than does-this-really-help or how-can-we-make-it-work?
Not only is there little incentive to have a meeting of the bipartisan minds, there’s little repercussion or consequence when compromise fails to happen and action never materializes. We’ve seen major failures in reaching any kind of consensus in the areas of health care, the national debt and deficit control, immigration and now, potentially, jobs creation.
In every other place outside of lawmaking, in the corporate, private sector and non-profit worlds—whether you are a cashier or a CEO—your compensation is directly based on performance. You are directly tied to the performance and satisfaction of the customer or client, and if you fail to do what’s in the best interest of the corporation, you typically get fired.
Job descriptions typically include requirements about being a successful part of a team environment; if you can’t get along in a group, you get fired. When you get fired, you’re gone in two weeks or less, not at the next year—or five, whenever the next election happens to be. It’s the truth at the blue-collar levels, it happens with mid-level works, and it even holds when corporate boards, like Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard aren’t happy.
How can we press for accountability and better-aligned incentives between our lawmakers and what the American people actually need? When you don’t have to worry about it until the next election cycle, and when your salary isn’t tied to how many people are getting back to work, what’s the rush? And when some believe that keeping the economy in miserable shape will actually help their party increase seats, it’s politicking at the peril of the people.
Whether it’s the jobs bill that Congress begins debating this week, or something else that rises out of the presumed tatters that bill will wind up in, I hope Congress has some miraculous change of direction and gets something done. It’s time for them to get back to work, so the rest of us can too.