I live in Brookfield. I am 65 years old. I consider ours a middle class family. In my lifetime, I have seen many extraordinary events: The first man on the moon, cultural upheaval of the ‘60s, the discovery of DNA, JFK’s assassination and the attempt on President Reagan’s life, three nuclear power plant disasters, and three major terrorist attacks on American soil. I lived through five wars, including the Cold War.
I have also witnessed nationwide desegregation, the tragic death of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the election of America’s first African American President. In more recent years, three major hurricanes, the savings and loan fiasco, Ponzi schemes and mortgage fraud have impacted American lives, property and the economy. Countless American jobs have been eliminated by outsourcing and mechanization, and employment once created by technology is now lost because of it.
The Wall Street collapse and subsequent bailout of financial institutions and big business may have prevented layoffs of ‘little people,’ but it did nothing to ferret out the underlying cause, increase oversight and prevent another collapse.
However, all that pales compared to the behavior of the present Congress. Never has there been a group of elected officials as inane, incompetent and self-serving as there are in Washington today. You act like little children, three-year-olds squabbling over a toy.
When did the words of our nation’s founders become irrelevant? "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed ... with certain unalienable Rights ... Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." The Preamble to the Constitution continues: "it is the Right of the People to ... institute new Government ... on such principles ... as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
There are no words in there about power, financial gain or self-righteousness. The Constitution’s authors came from all walks of life and undoubtedly had differing opinions on how a new country should be formed. But they talked with each other, probably argued as well, listened to everyone’s point of view, came to common ground. It was a courageous, monumental feat of human-ness.
Listen up Congress: Americans are sick and tired of your threats, bickering, finger pointing and lack of statesmanship and compromise. You have become puppets of the influence brokers -- big business, financial instutions, lobbyists, special interest groups, PACs, and the ‘good old boy’ political mentality.
We entrusted you to lead this country. Instead you have allowed your own selfishness and arrogance to obscure your paramount purpose -- working for the good of the American people. ALL people, not just the doctors/lawyers/merchants/chiefs, but the millions with whom you have lost touch or absolutely do not acknowledge or care how they live.
These are the people who repair your stuff when it breaks, serve you in restaurants, teach your children, construct the buildings where you live and work. They are office employees, assembly line workers, farmers, truckers, hospital staff. The list is endless. You are clueless what it is like to be living in middle class America.
Do you not realize shutting down the federal government will exacerbate an already gloomy economy? No paycheck means less expendable income, and with the trickle down effect, it adds more strain on families already struggling. On a federal level, it means a decline in tax revenue and more expense for unemployment benefits, and subsidy and welfare programs.
Instead of furloughing federal workers, Congress members should be required to live for six months on minimum wage, without benefits or access to any personal assets. Even at double minimum wage, you would be hard pressed to support your family. God forbid one of you gets laid off, downsized, or suffers a long-term illness or disability.
Members of Congress, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, Americans are also afraid the present path of government will mean the collapse of this country. We are fast sinking into anarchy because of your unyielding egos and juvenile thinking.
I would like to believe every member of Congress has the ability to make government work. Regardless of your party affiliation, you have a choice. You can continue business as usual, in which case America will fast go down the tubes. It will be your legacy for the history books.
Or you can do what’s right. Swallow your pride, put aside your conceit, push away the self-serving influence peddlars and for once in your life start working for the good of the people. You can offer a peace-making handshake and start serious and reasonable compromise by acknowledging no one is going to get everything s/he wants. You have the power to rebuild this country into the great nation it was designed to be. What’s it going to be?
Sandra Cutler is a Brookfield resident.