An Open Letter to the Members of Congress

Dear Ladies and Gentleman:

I write to you today on behalf of the people of the United States of America. I do not actually claim to speak for all of my fellow Americans, but I do know that many of us feel the same.

As you prepare for the new Congress, with a Republican-led House, a Democratic-led Senate and a Democrat in the White House, please remember these things:

First, you work for us.

You work for all of us.

We do not work for you.

Obviously we are not your immediate constituents. But in reality, we are. Because we are the citizens of this country, and you are the legislative power of this country. So please, when you are doing your work in Washington, remember that anything you do for your own constituents affects the rest of us, your national constituents.

Second, stop playing games.

We the people do not really want your strutting, your posturing, your gamesmenship. Just as productivity is important in our workplaces, just as we are rewarded when we meet goals at work, we expect you to be productive, too. Running the country is not a game; it is your job. It is your duty. It is your privilege.

So stop the games. We do not care one whit about you scoring points. Scoring points is not what we elected you to do. We elected you – each of you and all of you – to work. So get to it!

Third, remember us! I know you may think you are remembering us, but trust me, when you talk about rescinding health-care reform without a plan to replace it that is based in reality, not on partisanship, we the people are not pleased. You know why? Because we know that you have the best health-care in the world, and that more than 50 million of us don’t. Don’t talk to us about your ideas on health-care if you plan to leave 50 million of us hanging in the wind – yet again.

Remember, too, that we are the ones who are feeling the pain right now. Those of you who oppose extending unemployment benefits? Get real. Your gamesmenship means many of us will not have enough to eat, cannot pay our bills, and may lose our homes. For you this is a “matter of principle,” although we cannot figure out which principle it might be. For us, this is bottom-line reality: No more unemployment benefits, we’re in deep trouble. Stop balancing your principles on our backs.

Fourth, get real. Do not talk to us about balancing the budget and getting rid of wasteful spending and then demand that we extend the Bush tax breaks to the richest people – at an estimated cost of $700 billion over the next 10 years! Please. We are not stupid. We can do the math ourselves. And in doing that math, we can see that adding to the deficit will not end the deficit.  When 40 of the richest individuals in the United States publicly say you should to tax them more, when Warren Buffett says it is time to end the free ride for the richest, listen to them! Should you extend the tax breaks for the middle class? Yes. But for the richest, who only have gotten richer in the last decade? No. They’ve had their free ride, they’ve received their riches, they do not need more. You know why? Because there’s no such thing as trickle-down economics. When the rich get richer, they simply get richer. And we know that.

Finally, please, please, please: Respect us in the morning. We the people are not stupid. Obviously, many of you think we are. You think you can pull the wool over our eyes. But you cannot. We are paying attention, we do understand what’s going on, and we will hold you accountable.

It is time for you to step up and do the jobs we the people gave to you. We the people do not want to hear any more excuses. We do not want to hear you blame “big government” when you are that big government. We do not want any more posturing, any more points-scoring.

What we want is for you to work on our behalf.

We the people put you there, and we want you to remember that.

So get to work, please. Play your games some other time.


The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Virginia who served for five years as an overseas missionary.

McClatchy-Tribune New Service

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