Common Sense Is AWOL In The United States Congress

December 15, 2011
Written by Janice S. Ellis... in
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They risk their lives for us everyday, and come home to find nothing waiting for them but joblessness and hopelessness when it comes to supporting their families. Photo Credit:

Unlike our brave men and women coming home from Iraq after serving and getting the job done for their country, we cannot say the same about our elected officials here at home.

In the Halls of Congress, we see our elected officials take actions that defy plain old common sense, repeatedly refusing to pass needed legislation. What are sensible ordinary citizens to do when education, facts, and an appeal to reason fail during times like these, times when we need them most?

While the option to revolt may not be a practical one, succumbing to cynicism and oblique resignation aren’t either. It causes one to wonder what our founding fathers, and great leaders that followed them, would make of contemporary American politics. Some of them, no doubt, are tumbling. They long ceased rolling over in their graves.

There are several recent policy decisions — or the lack thereof — that could easily qualify for the “Grave Tumbler” Award. The last minute decision about the national debt that cost us our Triple “A” Credit rating, and cast our economic stability on the world stage in doubt is just one of them. Failure to pass a much needed Jobs Bill is another.

A few other notable examples come to mind. While the national deficit climbs, arguments rage on about how not to close tax loopholes for the wealthy but rather to continue to give them unfair tax breaks. What is wrong with putting into place a fair and equitable tax code: A code that demands each citizen pays his or her fair share? The country desperately needs the revenues.

Recent polls show most Americans agree with passing measures to make sure that we all pay our fair share of taxes to increase the revenues that we desperately need. Continuing to extend inequitable tax breaks, especially for the wealthiest among us “Tax Ingratiation Without Representation,” must end.

To add insult to injury, we can find billions to fund wars on foreign soil — even invest in rebuilding foreign nations — yet we try to realize savings by failing to provide or slashing much needed domestic programs for veterans, the elderly, children, the poor.

It prompts a broader philosophical question about what drives the fiscal decisions of policy makers.

One is almost tempted to circulate free copies of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense just to remind ourselves of what government should be about. It would remind us that we cannot afford to sit back and continually elect people who fail to represent us and protect our interests.

Did you really intend to elect someone who would rather cut Medicare for the elderly, education funding for our children, jobs, and services for our veterans instead of looking at reasonable ways to raise revenues?

And what about the immigration morass? Policy makers are very comfortable playing the ignorant, bigoted, or befuddled game. Immigration is an issue that could potentially be as divisive to this country as the Civil War. Needlessly.

In many cases, we elect representatives who vote or fail to vote on a measure whether they understand it or not, or even able to provide you with a clear rationale as to why they vote as they do? Call them faceless decisions. Unfortunately, many of them haven’t a clue about how their decision will really affect the lives of ordinary citizens.

Shouldn’t we require every aspiring candidate to take a qualifying exam — like many other public service professions — to ensure that they understand the basics of how government works, what it means to be a representative of the people’s needs, and not only capable of, but obliged, to make good policy decisions? The behavior of this current Congress begs the question.

What are we to do? Clearly letter writing, phone calling, faxing, emailing, and testifying have not impressed upon our elected officials the will of the people. They continue to believe that the people would rather put the desires of powerful special interests above what is best for families, children, and businesses.

Like our forefathers and mothers, we have options. A couple steps are worth noting:

First, for those who elected officials who can’t seem to distinguish a good decision from a bad one, we can now begin to compile and analyze their voting records and decide if they are worthy of another term. We can even start now to find better candidates. In other words, enact a plan to throw the unthinking, unreasonable, “space holders” out. That’s a short-term option.

Second, we can appeal to the like-minded among us. Never underestimate the power of the people. We still have power in our voices and our signatures. Perhaps it is time that we explore how to effectively mandate that elected officials be better stewards of taxpayers’ dollars. Through an initiative petition campaign, propositions can be passed; city charters and state constitutions can be changed. That is a long-term option.

We, the people, can do all of the above. When we look at the impact on our civil and civic society, we need to do something.

We can start with the 2012 Election.


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