There's a common question on the minds of most Americans these days: How did things get so bad? A real unemployment rate of 17%, a record number of home foreclosures, borrowing billions from China so we can buy the things from them that we used to make, and the list goes on and on. How did things ever get so bad?
I've thought about this question a lot over the past year as I've campaigned for Congress in Ohio's 2nd District. Every now and then the answer slaps me in the face. Today was one of those days. I'll quote directly from the letter the elementary school's principal had to send home after the incident:
Unexpectedly, towards the end of her address, Congresswoman Schmidt brought up the topic of abortion, and I am writing you to make you aware of this. Your children may come home with questions, especially if this is a topic that has not been broached in your home. I do not recall the exact words she used, but she paused towards the end of her speech and stated that this would be the only time when she would be "political" in her address. She defined abortion as the taking of a child's life in the mother's womb. She indicated that abortion involves the killing of a child before it is born. She was not graphic or any more detailed in this regard. Later, when a child asked about it, she indicated that an abortion is something that a doctor does when a mother requests this. It was not a particularly long segment of her address (1½ minutes or so), and these words may not match the exact words she used, but this description does, I believe, express what your child heard. Her point was to address the increase of governmental activity in the abortion issue and her political resolve to fight against this.
That's how things got so bad. We've elected leaders to Congress who have absolutely zero judgment on even the most basic matters. Regardless of your views on abortion, speaking to a group of six-year old children that are not yours about such a sensitive topic should be common sense. Yet, to the people we've re-elected time and time again, it's not. Consider this:
- In 2005, this is the same Jean Schmidt who called a decorated marine, Rep. John Murtha, a coward on the floor of the House.
- In 2009, this is the same Jean Schmidt who became the only member of Congress to agree with the conspiracy theorists and question Obama's birth certificate.
Now, in 2010, she's taken it upon herself to "get political" with six-year old children about abortion at their elementary school.
All three incidents prove a staggering lack of judgment -- especially from a Congresswoman charged with being a steward of our nation's future. We have a serious unemployment problem in southern Ohio as thousands of families struggle to make basic ends meet. They wish for nothing more than an opportunity to work hard for a better life. Instead of fighting for them, their Congresswoman votes to bailout the banks with nearly a trillion dollars and then votes against regulating the banks so it doesn't happen again, votes against holding China accountable for their currency manipulation that steals American jobs, and instead chooses to focus on Obama's birth certificate and lecturing six-year olds on abortion. Is it any wonder that nations like China are running circles around us? While their government is capable of thinking long-term and making the hard decisions, our "leaders" focus on their pet issues and seek to focus only on what divides us.
When I worked at companies like Procter & Gamble, people who showed such a staggering failure of judgment were immediately let go. Sadly politics is a different animal. As long as we allow our politicians to feel like they are guaranteed reelection based on the letter they have next to their name, we'll keep getting more of the same. More unemployment, more trillion dollar bailouts of banks, more debt borrowed from China, more tax-breaks for companies that ship job overseas, etc. At what point is enough, enough?
Surya Yalamanchili is the Democratic nominee against Jean Schmidt. He's a former Procter & Gamble brand manager and LinkedIn marketing director who has been living off savings for a year to run for Congress full-time. You can learn more about him here.