Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Challenge to Congress

by Rev. Ryan Eller

Members of congress are obsessed with their own opinions and even more obsessed with getting them on camera. Knowing that, this article shouldn’t have shocked me, but it did. So, I did what all good nerds do when we’re pissed off, and wrote this challenge, attempting to articulate for members of congress a way for them to understand where we’re all coming from, way down here in Middle America.

A reasonable challenge to members of the United States Congress from Middle America:

1)   Don’t take your salaries while you aren’t doing your job. In both reading the constitution and looking at the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, it’s pretty clear that passing a budget (or at least a continuing resolution) and funding the basic constitutionally protected business of government (military, roads, etc. etc.) is your job (as this now ironically awkward letter from congressional Republicans even suggested back in 2010.

2)   If you take us up on this offer, because you aren’t taking your salaries, share the experience of most people without an income and default on your own debt. While you’re at it, figure out a way to provide health insurance for your family. Really, test it out by applying for COBRA or searching on the new insurance exchanges for coverage. Heck, even go down to the doctor’s office and just ask how much it would cost you for a visit, now that you’re not receiving an income and don’t have health insurance and all.

3)   While you’re at it, file for unemployment insurance. You’ll enjoy that process a great deal I’m sure. Plus, it will prepare you for your real unemployment, which I’m guessing may occur some time in November of 2014 anyway.

4)   Since you have no income and one of your family members is likely to get sick at some point, you’ll need to figure out, like most Americans, which bills to pay and which ones to put on credit (if you can still get credit, that is). Go ahead and make a list. While you’re at it, make a list of all the things that will happen in your life if you don’t pay your bills. Since you’ve likely never experienced this before, I’ll give you a few hints:

a.     Your credit score will diminish, and it will now cost you more to live because each time you take out a loan your interest rate will be higher.

b.     If you can’t make the payment on your home, try selling it to prevent foreclosure. Don’t worry too much about the memories your family has had in the home. After all, you can make new ones in the next place you live. Also, good luck with the sale since most folks won’t buy in a market full of uncertainty created by congressional inaction. Regardless, do all you can to make those house payments because, trust the rest of us when we tell you, negotiating with the banks won’t work out well for you.

c.      You’ll have bill collectors calling the house to threaten you. It’s annoying, but you’ll figure out some good ways of dealing with it eventually. That is, until they show up and repo your car. Then, well, you’ll be in need of a ride. (Note: please use this as an opportunity to learn about our public transit system, which you, as a once-elected official, were charged to oversee and fund.)

5)   Once you do feel like doing your job again, and getting paid for it (because I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t take you very long once you experienced what most of us actually experience), please come back to Capitol Hill and share with your colleagues what it’s like when you can’t pay your bills (or in your case, simply choose not to even when you have never not paid them in US history). Then maybe you’ll realize that yes, there are consequences to not increasing the debt ceiling.

Do all of us middle and working class folks a solid, and just start acting like responsible leaders and do your constitutional duty. This might be hard for you to grasp, but we really don’t care which one of you comes out looking like the winner, as long as we’re not the losers in whatever game y’all think you are playing on Capitol Hill.  

Rev. Ryan Eller is a professional organizer, consultant and ordained Baptist minister, whose work includes managing nonprofits, political campaigns, and serving as the former US Campaigns Director for

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