The standoff between the White House and Congress is so frustrating to the average person that it is almost debilitating. Faced with a major cut to the financing of government agencies, some of which are vital to the safety and security of this nation, people have stopped scratching their heads and begun to reach for their anti-anxiety meds.
I heard a man call into a radio talk show this morning who asked, “What have I done wrong? Why is this happening, and why can’t I understand it?” His dilemma is not unique.
People all over this country cannot believe that the men and women elected to lead our government are ready to let the legislation go missing which would prevent us from slipping (jumping!) into sequestration, the automatic cutting of budgets of all government agencies and organizations (including the military and air traffic controllers!) by billions of dollars.
Experts in all of the fields to be affected have warned that this will devastate their ability to function. Economists of all stripes (fiscal conservatives to liberal spenders) have been clear that if allowed to happen, this sequestration will drive this country into a repeat of the recession from which we are just beginning to emerge; unemployment will be even more massive than it was; the banks and other lending institutions will be hamstrung; faith in the American economic system will evaporate all over the world. Do you need to hear more?
How can this happen? It is, from my perspective, a direct result of the U.S. government having slipped into what is known as an oligarchy. Major decisions about the functioning of this country’s government are being made by a seemingly-handful of elected officials without true regard for the welfare of the people of this country. In the name of political “expediency” (there is nothing expedient about it) careless and even stupid decisions are being made. The people are being ignored.
When was the last time you heard someone other than an elected official say that it was okay for us to slip into sequestration? Elected officials put on a serious face and try to convince us that they know more than we do about the situation, and that our fears are ungrounded. I just heard several political leaders say (on NPR) that the media has hyped the fears of the people. Strange, I thought I heard recognized and respected economists making the point about the danger of sequestration. It wasn’t an MSNBC commentator. It was people who we believe to be knowledgeable about such matters.
When I mentioned oligarchy to someone they said they thought the word meant domination by wealthy leaders. In a sense they are right. The wealth of many of the leaders of Congress makes them impervious to the needs of common people. When they talk about the fact that many people will lose their jobs or be “furloughed” as a result of the sequestration, they never even flinch, as if it isn’t a serious problem.
If an employee of a federal agency is furloughed for one day a week for a year it means they will not be paid for 52 days of work. If their daily compensation is $240 (that assumes they are making $30 an hour!) they will lose $12,480 a year in compensation. For a middle class person that is a huge loss. Not necessarily for a person who is a millionaire or close to it, as many members of Congress are. They are oblivious to the impact on the middle class family. And if the day care center where a struggling family places their child so both parents can work to make ends meet is closed because of the lack of federal funds, the answer is simple: one of them will have to stay home and care for their child. Duh!
The accusation of oligarchy is not unfounded. Telephone, email, and twitter messages to legislators must pressure elected officials to act…NOW! Be angry in your message. Don’t coddle your elected official. Let them know that their job is on the line. Congressional elections are in 2014.
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