I started writing this post by raising the question whether Congress was failing the American people. But I realized at most it would be a rhetorical question. With an 83 percent disapproval rating in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, Congress’s failure to respond to the needs of the American people is quite obvious. Americans’ faith in this venerable political institution has reached rock bottom. At the least we can only hope that there’s no place to go but up. President Obama appears to be doing all he can to present his case to nation, but Congress—particularly the House of Representatives—controls the legislative agenda and little is being done to resolve the country’s most pressing problems.
Most people will agree that too many Americans are having a difficult time making ends meet in today’s society. Although the unemployment rate has steadily dropped from slightly more than 9 percent in June 2011 to 7.6 percent in June 2013, too many Americans are dealing with unsatisfactory employment situations. There were still 11.8 million people unemployed in June. These are workers who have not given up looking for work and have not dropped out of the workforce but are getting nowhere. Of these, 4.3 million are considered long-term unemployed—having been out of work for at least 27 weeks. It is estimated that half of the long-term unemployed are 50 years and older.
About 2.6 million workers were classified as “marginally attached” to the workforce—meaning they want to work but are not looking for jobs for any number of reasons (school, parenting, etc.). A million of these workers have given up altogether. Add to them 8.2 million workers who are working part time—322,000 added in June— because they are not able to find full-time employment and you have an underemployment rate that Gallup estimates to be 17.4 percent and growing. Black unemployment remained stubbornly high at 13.7 percent.
Keep in mind that circumstances for the unemployed worsened after Congress failed to reach a compromise to stave off sequestration which slashed about $2.4 billion from the federal emergency unemployment benefits program affecting 3.8 million unemployed workers who will see their benefits reduced by an average of $47 per week—almost enough to buy a tank of gas.
Productivity is up. Wages are flat. The stock market is soaring to record heights. Corporations are experiencing record profits and sitting on trillions of dollars of cash. But those darn federal regulations keep the job creators from job creating. We’re told immigration is the greatest threat to the American worker. Repeal Obamacare!
The 113th Congress is on course to be the least productive in the history of the nation having passed 22 bills into law to date. When confronted by this fact on Face the Nation, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH8), the 61st Speaker of the House of Representatives, said Congress will be judged not by the number of bills that are passed, but by the number bills it repeals! According to GovTrack, there are 14 members of the House and two members of the Senate who have yet to introduce a single bill in the 113th Congress which convened in January 2013. By contrast, Congressional Social Work Caucus Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA13) has introduced 34 bills in the current Congress.
Got a legislative idea that you think might work to stimulate the economy? Got any ideas about how to reform the current tax system to reverse the course of growing inequality? If so, you may want to think about fleshing them out and offering your ideas to your member of Congress. This Congress needs all the help it can get. I know, if you are a Democrat, you may be thinking: why introduce a bill when it has no chance of passing a Republican-controlled House of Representatives? Introducing legislation is not just about passing legislation. It’s about presenting ideas that might help to solve any of the nation’s pressing problems.
Growing up I remember learning about a system of government in the United States that was the envy of the world. Ours was the best in the history of humankind. Our system created a thriving middle class. And now we have become the laughingstock of the world.
Written by Dr. Charles E. Lewis Jr.
President of The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy
Dr. Charles E. Lewis, Jr. is President of The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy. He has served as deputy chief of staff and communications director for former Congressman Edolphus “Ed” Towns and was the staff coordinator for the Congressional Social Work Caucus. He was a full-time faculty member at Howard University School of Social Work prior to joining Rep. Towns’ staff and now is an adjunct associate professor. As staff coordinator for the Social Work Caucus, Dr. Lewis helped to plan and to coordinate numerous briefings and events on the Hill and in the 10th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York.
Originally Posted at http://crispinc.org/?p=983
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