No More Lumps of Coal: How to Make Congress More Empathetic

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    The refusal by Republicans in Congress to support the extension of unemployment insurance flies in the face not only of human decency but also the overwhelming opinion of their constituents including their own party. Yet they went home to the comfort of their own homes and their various celebrations leaving the unemployed with nothing anyway.  A lump of coal is their legacy, cruelty enshrined into national inaction.  And they are proud of that. I have seen it said by GOPhers on social media sites that the unemployed are better served by cutting them off (from the means to feed, cloth and shelter themselves).  That’s as ludicrous as it is outrageous.  Where are the jobs?  

    What jobs do exist are not open to the unemployed. Absurdly, “better” to raid employees of other firms  than to hire those qualified folks actually needing a job (not!).  The absurdity  of what has become personnel practice in this country is a cruel joke.  And I say that as one having doctoral level study and experience in said field.  Practitioners in my former field (I am now retired), like the CEOs  they serve, have become predatory. What to make of the craziness and cruelty in Washington and what to do about it?  

    **First, unless we let our representatives know explicitly that they are history as members of Congress if they don’t stop the abuse of those the economy has harmed, we are no better than they. Have you explicitly told your member of Congress that? Have you demanded they focus on jobs, not bogus deficit reduction?  

    **Second, put your money where your actual values are.  Donate only to compassionate person-focused congresspersons.  No more DLC, Third Way,  or Gang of X, need apply.  (They’ve got their corporate dollars anyway.) Let them feel the pressure.  They could lose unless they get their priorities straight.  Make sure they know that.  It is time for tough love. Progressive are not asking for anything radical or extreme as the Tea Party does, only that congresspersons remember why we send them to Congress at all and that those doing so stop serving the billionaires and instead focus on the 99%. (You know who you are.)

    **Don’t support with donations those pretending we “must” cut pensions and Social Security when that is a con.  Don’t buy into the ruse that the rich need more tax cuts any more.  Period. Yeh, I know most of us here don’t buy into that literally.  But we do indirectly every time we support candidates who would screw those who need jobs, Food Stamps, health care, housing credits, etc.  Let’s stop it.  Our own personal legacies require at least that much.  

    **Volunteer time is a precious commodity.  Particularly before the final GOTV, spend yours on those candidates who deserve our efforts, don’t hand it out indiscriminately.  Obviously at GOTV time, I endorse getting out the Democratic vote for the ticket.  But from now until then, let your values show.  Now, you can stop the abuse of the poor, workers, women, children, and the elderly by refusing to support Dems who vacillate on populist-oriented and progressive. Let the so-called “radical centrists” know they cannot take you for granted.  How many times have said pols nodded as if they agree with you and then voted the opposite? Chose your pre-primary battles carefully. After the primaries, focus on real progressives.  Work your heart out for them as I will.  The following year (2015), closer to Virginians’ home, focus on the GA.  Bring candidates who did well on election day, but fell short (e.g., Harder and Boysko) over the top next time.

    **Help create a tsunami of support for extending unemployment benefits and restoring cuts to food stamps.

    **Advocate for a law requiring employers to hire the unemployed to get a tax credit.

    **Advocate for a bill which removes all other tax credits for corporations.  Let their bottom line depend upon fuller employment.

    **Push for members of Congress to live on a food stamp diet for a month. Put on the pressure big-time. Capture them accepting or refusing on video and put it on YouTube.

    **Similarly, pressure especially GOP members of Congress (but also Third Way, etc) to go through other poverty simulations.

    **(Somewhat whimsically) if they oppose the Affordable Care Act, they should have to live without health insurance themselves for one year.

    **And more whimsically, what if Congress was forced to speak the truth in all things, much the same way Liar, Liar’s Jim Carey’s character was.  But that movie is fiction, wishful thinking. Back to the real world, at minimum, pressure them into looking voters (and even their own extended family members) in the face and confess that they mean to take away their food, pensions, Social Security, Medicare. They do. Imagine if Hillary had to confess that Bill was poised to privatize Social Security just prior to the Gingrich-led impeachment of him.  Remember, he was impeached by the House, just not removed from office by the Senate. As much as we fought against that impeachment, it probably saved millions of seniors both today and in the future. Make Hilary come clean about any possible designs on privatization today. Make Mark Warner admit he is gunning for Social Security (because he is). Social Security is sustainable, unless he and others mean to prevent a lifting of the income limit for what’s counted for payroll deduction and unless he doesn’t admit he just doesn’t want to pay back what was borrowed. Rather, it is his forced austerity is unsustainable. You cannot grow an economy and have prosperity for the majority of Americans by strangling the middle class and the poor.

    **Remind faux centrists that there is nothing radical or even real about the imaginary center (which is really Nixonian Republicanism). As both parties have moved ever “rightward,” Democrats have forgotten what is profoundly good about where they have come from. How bizarre that Nixon was probably more progressive than a number of our own Democrats are these days!

    Note: You will not find me continually bashing him over the coming year.  But it is fair that  those he hopes to enlist as supporters and donors to make sure he hears them and truly commits to working for most of America, not the privileged elite. Mark Warner has the influence to be a great Senator instead of an quasi agent for Americans for Prosperity. May he live up to that potential in 2014 and beyond.

    Despite the media’s pretense that 2014 is all but decided (for the GOP), we have a rare opportunity to buck historic trends.  But we can do that only if we really are the people’s party.  It’s time to launch a tough love campaign to let our prospective electeds know that people come first and that they cannot win if they don’t join with us on this.  It is the only way we will win in 2014-keeping our priorities straight.