Congress needs to change, or we change it

Published 9:27 am Monday, December 4, 2017

Sometimes, our senators and congressional representatives in Washington need to be reminded of whom they represent. Too often, once they get to Washington they taste of the water there and forget about the folks back home who sent them there and why they were elected.
Too many of our congressmen and senators act as though they are representing a party rather than a nation. Some, if not most, climb into the pockets of high-paying lobbyists and become indebted to them rather than the people back home. If it were not for the votes of Tennesseans — the people who live in the small towns as well as the big cities, in the hollers and valleys and rural communities — Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and representatives like Phil Roe would not be in Washington, D.C.
They need to be reminded from time to time that there are people in their districts, who are having a difficult time making it, who live paycheck to paycheck, do not have health insurance, and are unable to get a good-paying job because there are none to be found. They need to know about the small businesses in Elizabethton, Johnson City, Mountain City, and elsewhere that cannot exist if they are treated in the same way as large businesses with regards to taxes, etc.
These folks are the real people behind the cuts and things that they propose. And, they need to understand that.
The average American’s net worth has dropped 8 percent during the past six years, while members of Congress got, an average, 15 percent richer, according to a New York Times analysis of financial disclosure.
This wealth disparity between lawmakers and the people they represent seems to be continually growing. Nearly half of Congress — 249 members — are millionaires, while only 5 percent of American households can make the same claim.
While the median income in America is around $50,000, nearly half of those in Congress are worth more than 1 million.
And while lawmakers in the “people’s house” grew significantly richer, the people they represent became slightly poorer, with the average wealth of an American household dropping from $20,600 to $20,500 over the same time period, the Post reports.
Congress is supposed to represent the people, but money has tainted the system. Instead of keeping their constituents in mind, most elected represented spend their time trying to raise money for reelection. This gives the people who fund political campaigns more power than what they should have. Campaign finance reform is truly needed to address this problem.
And when you factor in other forces that drive a wedge between members of Congress and their constituents — the constant fundraising, hectic schedules, and intense pressure to remain loyal to the party — it seems that the Congress, designed to be a sensitive barometer of Americans’ concerns and preoccupations, grows more distant from the people it is supposed to represent.
Our country has become so divided politically. And, we wonder if it can ever heal itself and come together again.
As Congress debates a new tax bill, we understand the allure of tax-cut promises. We want to believe promises of amazing growth or outcomes. However, these changes alone will not be enough to put the country on the right path.
As our country looks at the key issues ahead of us, including tax policy and health-care reform, we face important questions: How can we as Americans work together to improve our tax policy? How can we work together to provide core government functions? Answering those questions requires having civil conversations, learning from our neighbors and sharing our experiences. We are better when we can work together to find compromise.
The antidote, it would seem, is listening carefully to those we disagree with and seeking common ground as a starting point.
Perhaps, it is time to change out our representatives, like you change out a diaper, and for the same reason.

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