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Rep. Charles Rangel Headshot

Giving Americans What They Want This Holiday

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In the midst of the holidays and the season of giving, Congress remains unable to give the American people what they're calling for. I am deeply troubled by our government's inability to extend the payroll tax cut for 160 million working Americans and extend unemployment benefits for 2.1 million who rely on it. It is shameful that during these colder months, Americans must go to sleep at night praying that our government will give them the help they deserve.

The majority of Americans this winter aren't concerned with political games and Washington intrigue; they are worried about making ends meet right now. The holiday season is supposed to be a time of compassion for others, not fear and uncertainty.

I have been asking people to share their stories of struggle with me on my official Facebook page. One gentleman shared his story saying, "I need a job for a lot of reasons but the most important one is Dignity. When you don't have a job you feel terrible. It is hard to face other people, especially your family; you don't feel like a man anymore." He explained, "Your family loves you but at the same time they are ashamed of you and your kids become worried about being asked what their Daddy does. A job, any job would be better than no job. Keep the jobless in your mind and hearts."

This is the real problem going on across America: at a time when the top 1 percent control 42 percent of our nation's wealth, the 99 percent who have been playing by the rules are losing their hope in their future.

One woman from my district told me, "I am 52 years old, and I have worked since I was 13. Most of my teen and adult years I worked two jobs while raising my children. At this age I should be enjoying life with my family and grandchildren; however, I find myself scared, depressed and full of anxiety at the thought of perhaps finding myself homeless. I have only one check left, and then I will have no income." She added, "I am not a lazy person. As a matter of fact, I am willing to clean toilets if it means keeping a roof over my head and food on my table."

This woman's story is one of millions in America. To debate anything in this Congress instead of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits (like the Keystone Energy pipeline in Alaska) is being cruel and insensitive to the suffering and pain of our constituents.

In America, as "one nation under God," we have a moral obligation to help our most vulnerable. Regardless of one's religion, we all abide by the golden rule: to treat others as you would like to be treated. We have a responsibility to help the sick, the aged, and the poor. How can we turn our backs to the 50 million people who live in poverty? It is unconscionable that one out of five American children is born impoverished, and one in four homeless people is a veteran.

The political games must stop now. It is time for Congress to work together in making sure every American has a good paying job, quality education, affordable health care and housing. We must pass the payroll tax and unemployment benefits without any strings attached. It is not about being a Democrat or Republican; it is about doing the right thing.

The great Republican President Teddy Roosevelt said, "In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing." Today these words resonate truer than ever. There would be nothing more devastating to the hope and faith of Americans and the future of the American Dream than Republicans keeping on their course of doing nothing for the lesser of our brothers and sisters.