Congress on Recess

By Beacon Staff

After crafting a lackluster compromise to retire national debt obligations, Congress is on recess. Lawmakers will return to Washington in September for another couple weeks of work. But if the 1st Session is any indication of accomplishments, the public should not expect much help from the 112th Congress.

Americans are hungry for work and better jobs. President Barack Obama appears to still have hope that Congress will act on pending “jobs bills.” But Washington has halted work on anything of relevance, enabling itself to that do-nothing label that Americans deride.

Suddenly, almost no one but the fanatics have confidence that Congress can fix the mess it created. Public sentiment toward Congress is at an all-time low, with approval ratings hovering near a dismal 14 percent.

If Congress wanted to do some work in September, it could simply pass laws to help out-of-work Americans. On the docket are multiple billion-dollar trade agreements with countries like Colombia, South Korea and Panama.

Congress could also extend the Obama payroll tax cut that keeps on average $1,000 extra in families’ pockets. Congress could extend emergency unemployment benefits that help out-of-work Americans feed families. Congress could pass an “infrastructure bill” that puts construction workers back on our highways and bridges, rebuilding America. Or Congress could pass legislation to assure veterans get work when they return home from serving our country in our wars.

But Americans today have sadly come to expect Congress to do nothing.

As Standard & Poor’s Financial Services downgraded American credit worthiness, the agency said in its research update, “The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed.”

The political brinkmanship and partisan gridlock that encompassed a self-serving Congress cost trillions in actual dollar losses from middle-class retirement accounts. Congressional leaders must stop bickering like playground toddlers and learn to compromise for the good of America and our economy.

During a recent visit to Michigan, President Obama said that, “there is nothing wrong with our country. There is something wrong with our politics.” He continued that, “The last thing we need is Congress spending more time arguing in D.C … What I figure is they need to spend more time out here listening to you and hearing how fed up you are.”

The President and S&P are correct with their assessments of the state of national politics. Congressional leaders who do not listen, who will not compromise, or will not stand up for middle class values are not helping move America forward.

The GOP wants to present President Obama as a left-winger. But Obama is clearly a pragmatic centrist who recognizes that our country is deeply divided over core issues. The President is willing to compromise to get stuff done and has an implacable faith in people.

Early on, Obama passed a stimulus package that put construction workers and teachers back to work while cutting middle class workers’ taxes. He brokered a universal healthcare law that now provides women with full insurance coverage for contraceptive care. And Obama articulated a balanced approach to abate national debt; coupling entitlement cuts for the middle class with tax loophole cuts for the mega-rich.

As Congress will not act to better Middle America, President Obama must engage directly with the great American people, making “Whistle-Stops” in places like Whitefish. The President connects well with real people, those moderate and independent voters who want to advance middle class values.

The doubters and naysayers will always be a part of American politics. But our problems are mostly self-created, fueled by an intransigent Congress. As Congress will not help Americans find work, it is time to put country first and “Give ‘em Hell” Mr. President.

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