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Our Do-Nothing Congress

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Okay, we seem to have survived another congressionally created crisis—barely. All we seem to have lost this time—thanks to the intransigence of the GOP Representatives in the House—is our national honor, international respect and our credit rating. Really makes one proud to be represented by a clueless minority. This clueless minority is holding the entire country hostage and is constantly putting forward escalating ransom demands. Will someone please hold a course of instruction in Finance and Economics 101 for those people?! 

For the past several months I’ve been reporting on the gridlock in the 112th Congress. Since the 112th convened in January almost nothing of any substance has been accomplished for the betterment of our veterans, the American people, or our nation. The House has focused almost exclusively on doing all they can to make the President unsuccessful. The House and, to be fair, the Senate have consistently thwarted all of the Administration’s efforts to restore the economy and create jobs for the unemployed.

Over the past eight months I’ve focused primarily on the House since that is where the GOP has a significant majority. The House was created to be the People’s Voice with a Representative being elected in a direct ratio to the population in a specific geographical area. Idaho has a population of about 1.3 million and has two Representatives. California has a population of about 37 million and has 55 Representatives in what has been called “The People’s House.” The House is supposed to be the place where the immediate concerns of the people can be quickly acted upon. That concept has been completely co-opted by a tiny minority of the majority party. 

National poll after national poll have strongly stated that the vast majority of American people want JOBS, JOBS and JOBS! The majority of the American people didn’t give a rat’s patoot about the “Debt Ceiling Crisis” (a totally specious argument that somehow tied past debt payments to future spending—I can’t begin to explain how they ever tied together). 

This month I’m going to take a quick look at the Senate. The Senate was created to be a balance to the House. Each state has equal representation. The states with the most population have the same number of senators as the least populous states—two. Whereas the House could act quickly, sometimes rashly, the Senate was more deliberative and slower to act. The Senate was created to act as a moderator for the mercurial House. 

The Senate has been called “The Old Boys Club.” It has been, and continues to be, controlled by an arcane structure of rules and seniority regulations. As the more deliberative and judicious branch of Congress many of those traditions give substantial powers to the minority party—whichever one that is. The GOP currently has a strong minority position—47 seats—having picked up six seats in 2010. They have used this strength to essentially bring the Senate to a complete halt as a legislative body. Almost every attempt by the President or Senate Democrats to create jobs, extend unemployment benefits, raise revenue to reduce the deficit, etcetera has been met with either an actual filibuster or the threat of a filibuster. They don’t even actually have to filibuster—they simply have to say they will and the bill in question essentially dies.

The gridlock that has been created in both wings of the Capitol building has caused great harm and distress to the American people overall and to our veterans specifically. What are the reasons for this legislative gridlock? They are quite simple. This Congress is totally immersed in extremist, radical, shortsighted politics. The 112th Congress has chosen to ignore their role in the governance of the nation in order to thwart the President’s efforts to undo the harms done by the previous Administration. 

With the draw downs in Iraq and Afghanistan we have thousands of young men and women being released from active duty and re-entering the workforce. With a national unemployment rate hovering just below 10 percent that means there is growing competition for those few jobs available. Granted, there are dozens of organizations and groups (www.callofdutyendowment.org/resources/employment-training/ is but one example of these groups or sites) that are dedicated to helping veterans transition back to civilian life. If there are no jobs being created it simply means that a highly trained, skilled, goal-oriented worker is unemployed. The House majority and Senate minority have loudly asked, “Where are the jobs?” Well, if they continue to block or refuse to act on any and all proposals to get America working again, no jobs will be created. The onus is on Congress to finally do what they were sent to Washington to do—govern.

We will continue to have high numbers of unemployed among the general population and our returning veterans until one of two—or both—things happens. One, private enterprise gets off its fat wallets and starts hiring—as we were promised ten years ago when the Bush tax cuts were enacted—big time. Or two, the Federal government starts a massive public works program to repair, replace and/or update our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. One of these two things must occur soon. If things don’t start improving soon I fear that we will continue the downward spiral of the economic viability of the working people and an even greater disparity between the ‘Haves’ and the ‘Have Nots.’ 

On a local note, the Idaho inaugural ‘Run for the Fallen’ was held in Bonners Ferry on August 20.  The run honors the 54 Idahoans who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan. This event is now held in 44 states since its inception in 2008. It is held on the same weekend to honor all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Bonners Ferry played host to the Gold Star families from most of the 25 hometowns represented. Approximately 100 people took part in the run. It is the hope of the organizers that other towns in Idaho will continue what Bonners Ferry has started. If our Congressional leaders won’t help or recognize our veterans, it is my hope that the American people will.

As I started writing this article the news broke about the earthquake near Washington DC. Initial reports had the Capitol building being evacuated as a precautionary measure. My first thought was, “I’ll bet that’s the fastest they’ve moved during this session.” Then it dawned on me—our Congressional leaders are all on (a vastly undeserved) vacation, so there would only be low level staffers and maintenance people in the building. Damn, another opportunity to wake them up wasted!

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Gil  Beyer Gil Beyer A 21 year Navy veteran, lived in Bonner County for over 30 years, Past Commander of the Priest River DAV Chapter and admitted news junkie.

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