Sunday, December 5, 2010


In order to show the "get it", many newly elected members of congress plan to sleep in their offices rather than rent an apartment in Washington. The Wall Street Journal reports as many as 15% of the 94 newly elected members will bunk down in their offices to show the folks at home they aren't typical politicians and Washington isn't their "home".

As a former congressional staffer, my advice is please re-consider. As a taxpaying American, my reaction is here we go again. Staff show up early and stay late in congressional offices. The last thing any of us needed was to encounter our boss emerging from her rollout cot trudging to the House gym to get a shower. As a voter, I don't care where you live. I care about whether you will attempt to solve an economic and political mess and not engage in theatrics, which accomplish neither.

The "sleeping in the office thing" has been tried before. In 1994, when Gingrich and the Republicans took over the House, many of their members made a great show of sleeping in their offices. They weren't part of the Washington "elite". They weren't there to find a home. They weren't going to become permanent fixtures in the Washington scene. They were there to implement a contract on America. We all know how that turned out. Is the American public really duped by this kind of silliness?

Since the mid-term elections, Republican leaders have let it be known their top priorities are to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the richest 2% of tax taxpayers, repeal the health care reform act, politicize the Federal Reserve, starve all new regulatory bodies of the funding they need to do their jobs, (including the new consumer protection department and a more robust Securities and Exchange Commission), and oppose a new strategic arms treaty with Russia. Nowhere in their post-election bliss, have Republicans talked about a single plan for increasing jobs. They oppose extending unemployment insurance, but they say nothing about putting Americans back to work. At a salary of $174,000 a year, they hope living in their office can distract unemployed, or under employed, Americans from the fact they have no plan and no desire to fix the most pressing problem this nation faces.

Republicans are to meet with President Obama this week. They have postponed the meeting a number of times. They have no sense of urgency and seem unaware of how many Americans are hurting. The anger that caused Americans to throw out the Democrats seems lost on Republicans. If it is not lost, it is misinterpreted. The GOP believes voters want them to cut spending and reduce the federal debt. These are classic regressive issues near and dear to their hearts. (Well not to any left over from the classes of 2001-2006 as they drove deficits and the national debt to the stratospheric levels Obama faced when he came into office). Polls on Election Day, showed balancing the budget and reducing federal debt weren't even in the top five of voters concerns. The economy and jobs were number one. Voters didn’t give a damn about the teaparty. They want to work.

Some Americans are working today because of President Obama and the Democrats. The economic stimulus package, while too modest, kept hundreds of thousands of teachers, police and fire fighters working. The bail out of General Motors is a success story. The company recently raised $18 billion from an initial public offering and announced plans to open two new factories employing hundreds. Republicans opposed the stimulus package and fought any help for General Motors. Now, they want to sleep in their offices to show they "get it". It makes you want to scream or go eat a gallon of Oreo Cookie ice cream.

I don’t care where a member of Congress sleeps. (Not even Sen. David Vitter) I don't care how they spend their six-figure salary. I don't need stunts and political symbolism. I want the Congress to implement policies that will further stimulate the economy and create jobs. I want unemployment insurance extended. I want tax credits for employers who hire new workers. Money needs to go into research and development so we can compete with China and the rest of the world on everything from bullet train technology to super computers. Roads and bridges need to be repaired. The electrical grid needs to be rebuilt. We need to make things in this country again and use rising productivity and technological breakthroughs to offset the higher wages we pay American workers.

Refusing to meet with the President, setting priorities which will not create a single job, engaging in political theater for the benefit of...well for on one's benefit, are luxuries we cannot afford. Sit down and do what the voters want you to do. Restore the economic health of this nation, put people to work, support policies which will enable us to compete globally. Sleep on your own time.

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