Dear Senator Brown:
I am writing you because you are my lobbyist in Congress. Your voters have but three. Special interests have thousands. This is not exactly a letter, it is more like a lament. Hopefully something here will have some appeal. Here is how one voter sees the world as Congress works to restore the financial future of America:
• Several years ago, Wall Street picked up the middle class and working poor and threw them under the bus. The bond rating agencies helped push. Homes lost. Jobs lost. Health insurance lost. Hunger across all ages increased. Wall Street went to our economic basement, ripped out the plumbing and had no idea how to put it back in working order when it was declared broken. It did this with total disregard for working men and women – the gracious ball bearings of our economy. Wall Street was willing to eat its seed corn – the American consumer.
• Brilliantly, Wall Street socialized its losses after privatizing all profits and looked to our vibrant working people to bail them out and pay their bonuses. The bruised and beaten working people had to clean up after them. These good people have “shared” plenty.
• The economy, no surprise, did not recover easily from the havoc the richest people in America leveled against it. You complain that the Democrats have not done enough. But the GOP goal has been to thwart them at every turn, not to help get people back to work. Re-election is the Holy Grail — for both parties, unfortunately.
• And what does Congress do? What is its response to America? It signs off on cutting the services for the people who bailed out our country, its most battered citizens. Heaven forbid we look to people who get great tax breaks and cuts (corporate and personal) to share in the sacrifice. Figuratively, let’s say these people can eat 2,000 times per day. Would it be a loss if they could only afford to eat 1,500 times? With the top 1% holding 40% of our country’s wealth, do they really need all the money in the room?
• Enter the Super Committee to decide what to cut and what revenues to raise. At the moment, this appears to be an exercise that will be driven by ideology. Unlike business people accountable to stockholders, who look at the income side and expense side to solve complex financial problems, income seems to be off the table in DC. Is this in the best interests of the country, or is it what it takes to be loyal to one’s political base in the march to re-election?
• I think you, both sides of the aisle, and the Administration, have a huge conflict of interest when it comes to helping your constituents. I can’t help but think it would be different if the ball bearings of America could send you millions of secret/dark dollars like Wall Street can. Perhaps they would send some if Wall Street had not trashed so many jobs and sent the rest overseas. But they can never compete; they were not meant to. And special interests grow like kudzu on steroids.
• We look for wisdom, compassion, good business sense, and total integrity as you all embark on a critical mission — getting America back on track. All of America.
• While off the subject, I always remind people that the words “political party” appear nowhere in the US Constitution. But, somehow two parties have become the gatekeepers for all that happens in government. The Democrats and the Republicans have become two warring corporations interested in little more than market share. Again, democracy suffers. Our Founding Fathers had something much more noble in mind, I am sure.
In conclusion: Stop the war. Stop the platitudes and one-liners that do nothing to resolve the complex problems we face. I see too much acrimony and very little acumen. I see vicious political combat, not reasonable deliberations to find the best answers. I read nothing that leads me to believe our Congress understands the magnitude of the problems we face. Too many answers go one sentence deep. Your voters deserve much more than that.
Thank you for your attention.
MICHAEL RIPPLE of Somerville is a consultant to human services and a cartoonist.
Photo: Mark Sardella, http://www.flickr.com/photos/dr_television/