Paul Kozakiewicz: We go, because we care
We love this country, and we care. That's why we are going coast-to-coast to Washington D.C. in September, to tell those fools on the hill that we, the people, matter still.
Congress has failed our country miserably over the past decade or so, mostly because the leaders of the two major parties have created a toxic environment by refusing to work together, and by polarizing our people with hyper-partisan rhetoric. The result has created a situation where they all should be shown the door for gross malfeasance.
Members of Congress have forgotten why we elected them. They live in a bubble that insulates them from the realities of the outside world. Members of Congress (and their families) do not have to obey the laws they pass for the rest of the nation, such as exempting themselves from nationwide health-care reform. Additionally, they get a lifetime pension after one term, and are exempt from sexual harassment charges.
With Congress at the helm, the national debt is now more than $17 trillion and will require us, as a nation, to pay some $450,000 billion a year, or more, just to pay the interest on that massive debt. The national debt comes out to $55,000 per person for every one of the 318,314,749 Americans. We know this money could be spent on countless projects to improve our country.
We, myself and a few friends, are going to D.C. on Sept. 13 to tell our elected officials that we care – and we would like you to join us. We care that one of the greatest institutions in the world is now mired in a moral and ethical cesspool. We care that their incompetence signals a loss of world standing and increased suffering for many of our citizens. We care that lobbyists run the show and that politicians have become mere window dressing.
We're going to D.C. as Americans, not Democrats or Republicans or any other political party. We're going there to say that we all share the same goals: clean air and water, safe communities, good schools, good roads, a military that treats our warriors with respect and proper care, and clean, transparent politics that works for the best interests of all Americans. (In November, all of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and about a third of the 100 Senators are up for election.)
Congress can move mountains when it works in the best interest of the American people. Just recall the creation of the interstate roadway system, national park system, the rebuilding of Europe after WWII, and the development of a stable middle class with constructive business regulations and tax policies.
Now, Democrats and Republicans point fingers at each other and cry like schoolyard bullies in the blame game. I'm sick of it. Neither party holds the key to righteousness.
Politics is the art of compromise, of getting things done for the benefit of the American people. Those goals have been subverted by the politics of the party - doing what's best for the party and not for the interests of all Americans.
Both parties are shamelessly guilty. They have created a partisan, toxic environment where compromise, the commerce of democracy, is feared. It is no wonder Congress' approval rating is at a record low.
Congress has also helped create a situation where many Americans feel animosity toward those in the opposing political party.
Some San Franciscans froth at the mouth at the mere mention of George W. Bush or Republicans, while a recent visit to Mississippi and Tennessee showed me that many Republicans feel the same way about President Barack Obama and liberal Democrats.
We need to get back to the concept that we're all Americans first, and members of a religion or political party second. We need to stop frothing at the mouth.
Meanwhile, members of Congress fiddle and the country burns.
Congress' approval rating at record low
Do you think members of Congress grew up dreaming of giving tax breaks and special favors to corporations and special interests? Or, did they dream of helping those in need, and of creating a greater nation for their children and grandchildren? Did they dream of being disdained as ineffective legislators, or of becoming heros?
I'm betting the latter.
We are the greatest nation on Earth, and it is about time we started acting like it.
The gamesmanship must end. We are going to tell our legislators to stop country-clubbing and bickering and to go to work. It's not right that Congress, with more than half of its members being billionaires, should ignore the needs of the poor and middle class. About 16 percent of Americans now live on poverty.
We need to get our house in order.
And it is no longer acceptable that incumbents avoid debating their opponents. It is the American way, and any politician who can't defend their record or explain their votes does not deserve to be re-elected.
In October of last year, Congress couldn't even come together to keep the government financed. The government shutdown needlessly hurt thousands of people across the nation, and left a bitter taste on the American public's palate. As well, thousands of foreign visitors missed out on seeing our great national parks.
Journey to D.C.
While in D.C. on Saturday, Sept. 13, we'll roast some politicians on the National Mall before heading off to Congress, where we'll present a petition demanding action on important national issues; stage a night-time vigil for the fate of the American people; and demand that all candidates for the nation's highest elected offices debate in the marketplace of ideas.
It would also be nice if the members of Congress took up and banned so-called "Leadership Pacs," a loophole in campaign finance laws that allows members of Congress to collect unlimited amounts of money from lobbyists and other contributors to use for personal purposes, including putting their family members on the payroll.
This form of influence pedaling exists in the dark, far away from public scrutiny, and counter to the principles of an open, transparent government.
The current Congress can't balance a budget, reduce our national debt, or do anything to keep our nation's middle class from slipping. We need dozens of issues to be handled, not ignored. The time to act is now.
I'll keep you posted in future columns as to our progress and we'll be setting up a website and some social media to help get the word out. Anyone with a beef with Congress is invited to join us to say we love this country, and we care.
We're going to tell those fools on the hill, that we matter still.
Paul Kozakiewicz is publisher of the Richmond Review and Sunset Beacon newspapers.