Thursday, February 28, 2013

REM (and Policymakers) Say "It's the End of the World as we Know it."

Or is it?

At this point I will be very surprised if Congress comes up with some last minute deal to stop sequestration from happening.  I've been wrong before many times (and on many subjects).  But with members of Congress leaving this afternoon for their districts I don’t see much hope.  And when the Speaker of the House says "[w]e should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their a** and begins to do something," (as quoted in the Detroit Free Press) that’s never a good sign for either bipartisan or bicameral action.

No matter how frustrated we are with process, however, it’s important to remember that the question of whether these cuts stick – and for how long -- remains up to the American people.  Legislators will be back at home over the weekend, so now’s the time to tell them what you think.  Following are some tips on how to so to:

  • Be clear about your position: At a minimum be clear whether you’re “OK with it” or “not OK with it.”  If you’re not OK with it, why?  Are flight delays really getting you down? (full disclosure, I’m flying on Sunday – hopefully).  Have the cuts impacted your job?  Your family?  Your health?  Your leisure time?  The weather (hopefully not).  Whatever it is that’s bugging you, tell that personal story.

  • Recognize that reasonable people can disagree:  Because of the way district lines are drawn, many legislators represent citizens on just one end or the other of the political spectrum.  For example, there are some real differences between residents of the 12th district of California (Rep. Pelosi) and the 8th district of Ohio (Rep. Boehner) in terms of education level, occupation type, language spoken, commuting patterns – the list goes on and on.  I know this because I did a little research on  In short, day-to-day life is very different for the citizens of these two areas.  Their political views, as well as the views of their representatives, reflect those differences.  So no matter how frustrated you are, remember that members of Congress are trying to reconcile the widely varying views of the American public. 

  • Finally, please, please, please know what you’re talking about:  To paraphrase cartoonist Walt Kelly, “we have seen the enemy, and he (or she) is us.”  Why do I say that?  Well, according to Pew research polls (and as reported in this US News and World Report piece), “. . . two weeks ago, 72 percent of Americans cited reducing the deficit and cutting spending as items that should be the president and Congress's top priority. However, this week, when specifically asked what to cut, Americans polled didn't want to cut much at all! As a matter of fact, many programs they wanted to remain funded as is or to increase, with the exception of a small percentage that wanted less funding to go overseas for foreign aid.”  Sorry everyone, but “foreign aid” is less than .5% of the overall Federal budget.  It’s not going to make a dent.  We find more change in the couch cushions in Washington, D.C. than that.  Please don’t suggest this as a solution.  

Perhaps the best advice I can give is to be nice.  In politics, as in life, the person who disagrees with grace and respect gets the most attention.  They’re much more pleasant to deal with.

***The above article was written by Stephanie Vance, The Advocacy Guru. Follow her on Twitter

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