Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Come for Tea -- Stay for Mayem?

Do you believe that the Tea Party officials elected last year have over-stepped their so-called mandate and become as some have claimed -- thugs and hostage-takers? Joe Nocera writing in the New York Times on August 1 minced no words as he compared the Tea Party Republicans to jihadists, claiming they showed "almost gleeful willingness to destroy one of America's most invaluable assets, its full faith and credit" and claiming their intransigent demands were incredibly irresponsible.

Have you been intrigued and appalled at the spectacle of our Congress in action these past few days? Have you wondered how grown men (yes ladies -- they are mostly men, aside from Michelle Bachman) could behave in such a childish manner? Does it seem to you that these elected officials are not earning their keep? Their oaths of office seem to indicate that they will work to "well and faithfully discharge the duties" they were elected to perform, yet that seems to be quite far from their minds if actions account for anything in this world. Nowhere is it stated that they should drive the country to the brink of financial disaster with an exercise in political theatre and power grabbing.

The Tea Party caucus in the House consists of approximately 60 members (among the 435 total members) who collectively come from about half of the states in the country. Eight states in the South, six in the western portion of the country and several in the Midwest comprise the list of these members' home states. Maryland's octogenarian senior representative, Congressman Bartlett has joined in the caucus, although he is a long term member of Congress. No states in the Pacific Northwest or Atlantic Northeast are in this group. The U.S. population is over 300 million people. With each Congressional District representing a bit over 600,000 residents on the average, it would seem that these members who claim to have such a mandate represent a very small percentage of the population of several districts. Approximately 41% voter turnout was seen in 2010 among the approximately 210 million potential members of the American electorate, so about 86 million voters made it to the polls.

Now they have been rewarded for being hostage-takers by the Democrats caving in to their demands. The President and Vice President were apparently negotiating in good faith with those whose word cannot be their bond. The Speaker and the minority leader have not either been shown to be honorable or stalwart in their zeal to honor party over country. The country will be the loser here in the long run. This group of Tea Party obstructionists is not representative and has shown it does not care about the collective good of middle class America. Democratic leader Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has said this division of government will be resolved at the ballot box in 2012.

My concern is that this is the third manufactured crisis since the November election: the Lame Duck session agreements, the continuing budget resolution threatening government shutdown, and now the debt ceiling debacle. All have increased the pressure on the President, created a hostage mentality in Washington, and scared the elderly, federal employees and investors alike. In no way are these actions symbolic of what a representative government should be. My hope is that we can all survive the next session once Congress returns from recess.

One shining smile made yesterday have a small redeeming value -- that was the smile and tentative wave from Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords as she returned to the House floor to vote for the first time since she was so gravely wounded in January. The House erupted in spontaneous applause from both sides of the aisle -- a sign that there could again be unanimity in the Capitol -- if all were to view their jobs as ones of service to the Amrican people.

Some are working broadly to prepare for the next elections (aside from the Obama for President push); defeated Liberal Senator Russ Feingold has set up a group called Progressives United to prepare for 2012. Check out his site here.

Maybe he has found a path we can travel down toward the future. Let me know what you think. What do you plan to do to reverse this backward trend? There will be more discussion about the "super committee and the agreed upon measures" in a future column, but I want to hear from you. How could this have been better resolved and included revenues? What would you have had Boehner, Biden, Reid and the President do instead? How do we keep our country from being led by a group more symbolic of Lord of the Flies than Mr. Smith goes to Washington?

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