BY DIANE DIMOND
Labor Day is in the rearview mirror, and the summer season has been officially declared as over, even though the calendar says autumn is still weeks away. With vacations behind us and the kids back in school, this is the time we traditionally return full attention to our work.
That’s what we regular citizens do, anyway. Then, there are the members of the U.S. Congress.
Now, keep in mind I’m talking about people we chose to be our leaders. We voted for these folks because they convinced us they could go to Washington and truly represent our interests.
Also remember, each rank-and-file senator and representative earns $174,000 a year and enjoys liberal allowances for staff, travel and other amenities. Members of the leadership earn up to $225,000.
So, how are they doing? In a word: Atrociously. And Congress has earned every bit of the contempt the citizenry now holds for them.
This 113th session of Congress has the highest disapproval rating ever recorded in the 30 years Gallup has polled American’s opinions. As of last month, 83 percent of us disapproved of the job they are doing.
As the full effect of the humanitarian crisis at our Southern border cried out for legislative action, Congress went on a five-week summer vacation. As Americans were learning the full extent of ISIS atrocities in the Middle East, our “leaders” did nothing. As terrorists boldly beheaded an American with a camera rolling and took to the Internet with a vow to kill more of us, many members of Congress were busy raising money for their upcoming midterm election campaigns. The rest of them? Well, Tra-la-la! it was time for them to get some R & R.
Relaxation from what, I ask? The House of Representatives did pass more than 356 bills, a majority of them with bipartisan support. But there they sit in the Senate with no action taken. If the two sides of Capitol Hill can’t figure out how to work together, it does us no good. Ineffective governance helps no one but the politician drawing a paycheck.
There has been no definitive action to reverse the economically devastating trend of joblessness and under employment. The nation’s roads and bridges are in dire need of congressionally approved money to repair them. The tax code is a mess, and few fully trust the IRS to be fair. Security concerns about the country’s power grid are disregarded. Obvious cost savings go ignored.
Here’s just one shocking example: Holding the 149 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay racks up an annual bill of $3 million — for each prisoner! This year, we taxpayers will foot the Gitmo bill to the tune of $443 million. Yes, I know there is an issue of national security involved, but did you know 79 of the detainees have already been cleared for release? We just haven’t sent them away yet.
It is estimated we’ll spend up to $2 billion to house, feed, adjudicate and deport the Honduran, Guatemalan and Salvadoran migrants we allowed in over the last year. Thanks to the inaction of Congress, the list of money that should never have been needed goes on and on.
Our wallets continue to be raped to make up for the absence of any true political leadership. Our families go without to financially satisfy the federal government’s failures.
Where does the blame lie? With all of them, every member of Congress who fails to stand up and exclaim, “This is not right. The American people deserve better!” It’s not a republican thing. It’s not a democratic thing — it’s a lack of leadership thing.
If you are the average American worker who gets two weeks vacation and all federal holidays off, you spend 240 days on the job. This congress is scheduled to be in session just 133 days. That doesn’t, of course, count days the member might work in their home district.
In eight weeks, the midterm elections will give power back to us — the voters — if only for a day. When you step into the voting booth, remember how hard you work to get your job done right. Demand no less from your lawmakers because they decide the direction of your future.
Voting on party lines or for sentimental reasons is a fool’s errand. Use the power of your vote wisely.
Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at www.DianeDimond.net or reach her via email Diane@DianeDimond.net