Landing in D.C. yesterday morning and the sight of the Washington Monument, the National Mall, and dozens of other historical treasures left me inspired for the events ahead. The history of our nation’s capitol is soaked with inspiration and triumph over difficult times. The whole notion of a thirteen separate colonies joining together to form a single nation must have been tough enough to imagine, let alone accomplish. The Lincoln Memorial sits as a reminder to how close we came to losing the United States a mere 80 years after the Constitution. Nonetheless, the union stood strong to win a war and declare an end to slavery. The White House forces me to recall the FDR and LBJ presidencies because of the sheer will of both men to put not only their own imprint on the country but to steer it towards a more just and equal nation.
All of that is lost walking the halls of the Longworth, Rayburn, and Cannon Congressional Office buildings. To house 535 members of Congress, committees, meeting rooms and staff requires a skyscraper amount of space. As a result if feels like a maze, circular, zig zag… whatever. It makes you lose your spot in building. I now understand how so many of our Congressional Representatives lose their way. They get lost in their own damn buildings!
Take Back the Capitol’s first day efforts primarily focused on representatives of the one percent. The likes of Paul Ryan, Jon Kyl, Darrell Issa, Vern Buchanan. These so-called Congressmen were not very responsive to the citizen lobbyists of the 99 percent.
Outside Ryan’s door hung a plague saying, “please come in.” But his staff locked the door and shifted reasons from “he’s not here,” “he’s not available,” and “you need to make a scheduling request online.” Constituents claim they have requested numerous meetings with him, attended his town halls, and called his office to no avail. Since the staff did not allow them into the office they sat outside reading letters from constituents about the need for jobs. The desperation felt overwhelming at times. Voices cracked and a few tears fell.
Last week’s unemployment numbers may have showed some improvement in the economy by adding more than 100,000 jobs, the real picture lies in the working class people occupying the offices of Congress. Roughly 300,000 people gave up looking for a job providing much of the boost in the unemployment rate. Nationally, about 25 million people remain unemployed or underemployed.
Instead of talking to constituents, more than a few representatives are choosing to hide behind the vary title that we the voters gave them. Staffers in Joe Walsh’s office promised a meeting at 3 p.m. but the Congressman ran away instead. He literally ran away. Elton Gallegly had Capitol Hill police escort away from his office and unemployed constituents. Sean Duffy locked his office. Adam Kinzinger’s staff initially invited people in prior to calling the police and forcing them into the hall. Before they exited the office they were told three different stories on why Kinzinger couldn’t meet with them. They also overheard a staffer telling the Congressman over the phone not to come back to the office because his constituents were here.
This is our Congress. These are the people who asked for our votes and then refuse to meet with us. It is no wonder they refuse to meet President Obama halfway on any policy goals.
They run away scared, they fake meetings, and they claim ignorance in the face of the unemployed.
Now we come to the holidays with unemployment benefits set to expire for two million Americans. A nice way to start the new year for so many of them. In the weeks and months that follow upwards of six million could see the benefits vanish. The heartlessness shown in the video above by just a few representatives is shocking. They are from the heartland of America yet they cannot take the time to meet with the people who are impacted the most by their unwillingness to show compassion in this tough economy.
The AFL-CIO launched a new site that shares the stories of the unemployed. It is aimed at drawing attention to the lack of jobs and the struggle it is just to make it on unemployment.
In Joliet, Ill., Marvin says his unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are no substitute for a paycheck, but:
I’m grateful that I have it. I’m able to keep a roof over our heads….I’d like Congress to walk in my shoes for a day.
If Congressional Representatives cannot be bothered to even talk with constituents when they are at their office door, it is doubtful they can be bothered to read a website. But maybe… just maybe it will spur people into action and force a reckoning for them to listen to a deluge of phone calls.
© Aaron Krager 2008-2013 | Have any questions? Send me an email.