Reps should take our needs as serious as their vacation time

0
357
Pat Grime copy.jpg

According to the official House of Representatives calendar, Congress will convene only 113 days this year. You have to admit, 36 weeks of vacation is a mighty fine benefit to go along with a paid staff and an annual salary of $174,000.

True, lawmakers need time to visit their districts and hear from the people they represent. One hopes our elected officials are getting an educational earful during their current recess, all the better to address the real needs of our nation.

According to the official House of Representatives calendar, Congress will convene only 113 days this year. You have to admit, 36 weeks of vacation is a mighty fine benefit to go along with a paid staff and an annual salary of $174,000.

True, lawmakers need time to visit their districts and hear from the people they represent. One hopes our elected officials are getting an educational earful during their current recess, all the better to address the real needs of our nation.

My strong suspicion, though, is that the biggest portion of our representatives time’ is spent raising money for future campaigns, with precious little time left for listening to constituents.

This will not stop the next session’s members of Congress from pontificating about “what the American people want.”  It is frustrating and sad that every assertion about what people want, from either side of the aisle, miraculously mirrors the platform of the party to which the legislator making these assertions belongs.

I daresay almost all members of Congress have a deficient grasp of what the nation’s populace desires. How could they know what we, the people, want, when their lives are almost wholly enveloped in retaining privilege and helping wealthy supporters do the same?

You want to know what America needs?  Then do something out of the ordinary – live like a regular American.

Drive yourself to work during rush hour; experience the crowded, god-awful roads and bridges regular people use every day. Stand in line at some government office to understand how we commoners have to endure bureaucratic nonsense. Call your overpriced cable company and suffer the consequences of monopoly; write a check to your Internet provider and better appreciate the fallacy of a free market making essential services like this cheaper.

Look at the groceries normal Americans purchase, read the labels and witness the vast quantity of overprocessed foods our culture consumes, many of them with questionable ingredients banned in other countries. Talk to the custiomer paying with food stamps about how hard it is to feed their family.

Gaze at the parking lot of dented vehicles; estimate how much duct tape is used to hold headlights and tail lights in place or cover the rusty edges of doors and fenders. Consider how your constituents can’t afford to repair or replace their cars.

Check out the neighborhoods to note the maintenance being deferred until better times, or witness the pathetic displays of housewares, furniture, clothing, and children's toys arranged on front lawns or vacant lots as your American people sell their meager possessions to get through another week.

Speak with the desperate souls wandering into a payday loan office; find out how thoroughly those with very little are taken for what little they have. Ask the tenants paying sky-high rent how difficult it is to get a home loan.

When you do these things, nothing you see or hear will resemble the input you Congress persons receive from the well-connected and well-to-do. But if you deign to speak about “what the American people want,” you'd best find out what the majority of our citizens truly wish for.

And until you do that, please just shut up about “what the American people want.”

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at pgwriter@inbox.com