Saturday, February 7, 2009

Stimulus: What will it stimulate?

I wish the boys and girls in Washington would remember who elected them, not who funded their campaigns, but who turned out for the caucuses, the primaries, and the election. It feels like everyone, regardless of party, has been firmly entrenched in their partisanship. While I like our President, I want him to be above the partisan shenanigans. I think he has tried very hard to do so, but his speech to the Democrats earlier this week was not just talking to the choir. The media were there and, consequently, the entire nation was there. I wanted him to talk about why each of the things in the stimulus bill was essential. I wanted him to do what I know he can do -- pull Democrats and Republicans together to do what needs to be done for the benefit of all citizens.
I wanted the Democrats to curb their enthusiasm for pet projects. I wanted the Republicans to temper their preference for cutting taxes at the expense of the poor and working class. Ever the optimist, I wanted everyone to do what was best for the country.
I volunteer in a local food bank, doing new client intake. Our new clients have more than doubled over a year ago and these new clients are folks who have never been poor before, who had good jobs and donated to charities. They are embarrassed to be asking for food. They apologize for needing help. One by one, they tell their stories and those stories add up to a very sad account of our times. These are the bedrock of our country, the people who paint our houses, repair our cars, cook our meals, clean our houses, cashier at our grocery store. There are hints that they will soon include people who teach our children and others who provide additional services. These are people who were comfortably retired on money they carefully socked away.
Were the Congresspeople thinking about the average folks who have become the new poor? Or were they thinking about what would advance them in politics -- collecting favors for another day, totaling up the happy donors' dollars?
There has been a lot of talk lately about exorbitant executive salaries to CEO's rapidly running through the taxpayer's dollars, about flashy vacations on taxpayer dimes and nickels. The people I know are sick about the corruption that has become the everyday headlines in our newspapers and the stories on our nightly news. Did the people we elected to go to Washington realize that their actions on the stimulus bill were only a tiny step from those of the oblivious CEOs?

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