Just when I thought I couldn't be more outraged at Congress, I found out they went on vacation for five weeks.
No doubt many of them will claim they are going back to their districts because spending time with their constituents is a vital part of their work. But if the debt negotiations are any indication, lots of them don't really care what their constituents think. Poll after poll showed nearly three quarters of Americans supported a debt deal that combined spending cuts with additional revenue; namely, tax increases on the wealthiest Americans and the closure of corporate tax loopholes. Exactly what we didn't get.
That's because we were all taken hostage last week by a band of extremists, masquerading as the freshman Republican class of the House of Representatives. It doesn't even matter if you agree with their politics. The basic gist of democratic government is that the majority rules. That's why you have votes. The side with the highest number wins.
Except in Washington, D.C., where playground bullies threatening to blow up the sandbox had everyone running scared. They weren't negotiating, they were playing with people's lives. Maybe they could afford to pay higher interest rates on home and car loans and credit card bills. Maybe they didn't need to borrow money to purchase inventory or make a payroll. Maybe they don't care about their 401K because they've got a taxpayer-funded retirement plan.
But the financial debacle that a default on the nation's debt surely would have wrought does matter to millions of hard-working Americans who are already out of work, struggling to pay bills, barely staving off foreclosure and wondering if they will wind up working until the day they die. Our elected officials are not supposed to scare people to death (or pay the ransom). They are supposed to respect the fundamental principles of democracy, which in addition to the highest number wins, also include representing the people, not giving them the finger. They are supposed to be fair, honest and smart in solving the nation's problems.
Because they have not been and we the people have failed to hold them accountable, the American dream is sadly crumbling before our eyes (just like our infrastructure). It used to be that you had a reasonable shot to get ahead if you worked hard, paid attention in school, saved your money and worked hard some more. Nowadays, it seems like the only sure recipe for success is to star in a reality television show or marry a Kardashian. Or get elected to Congress, where nearly 46 percent are millionaires.
Which makes me think that the problem in America isn't fiscal as much as it is a crisis of traditional American values, such as responsibility, fairness and tolerance that has led us to this place.