Monday, January 15, 2007

My Wish List for the 110th Congress

I meant to post this before but it got lost in my drafts. This was originally supposed to go up on January 6, so some of these things have already been addressed. Hurray!

I'm excited about this new Congress and the opportunity they have to make some changes in the direction the country is taking. That being said, I can't say I'm incredibly optimistic. Taken one by one, many of the Congressmen and women seem to be there for the right reason: because they think they can make a difference. But put them all together and it becomes a game of one-upsmanship with petty bickering, popularity contests and non-stop fundraising.

Not a whole hell of a lot got done in the 109th Congress. Both sides are pretty sure it wasn't their fault.

So, in no particular order, my wish list for the 110th Congress:

1) Get to work. I'm not talking about actually passing legislation--though that would be nice too. I'm talking about actually going to the office. Staying in Washington for the entire five-day work week. No more leaving on Thursdays. No more using Monday as a traveling day that precludes your going to the office. Every day, hundreds of thousands of "regular" people manage to get up early, kiss the kids good-bye, and travel across the country for same-day meetings. Not many of us would keep our jobs for long if we only worked Tuesday though Thursday. And no, fundraising trips, dinners and other events should not count against your "time served."

2) Pass legislation to increase the national minimum wage. If you had to vote yourselves a pay raise almost every year for the past 10 years, surely you can see why some people might appreciate another couple of dollars an hour. Some (ok, many) Republicans have argued that an increase would hurt the economy. That employers would just cut hours and/or production to make up the difference. Maybe in the short run. But if we can get millions of people above the poverty level, they might actually have a few extra dollars to spend--maybe even on the stuff they make. It's been almost 10 years since the federal minimum wage was increased. Anyone think that the price of gas, heating oil, prescription medications and housing have stayed the same?

3) Pass legislation allowing the importation and/or re-importation of prescription medication. There is no reason why seniors and sick people should be subsidizing the drug companies. And there is no reason to believe that same drugs, approved for use in other countries, should be a danger to the US consumer. There is only one group who is in danger from this legislation.

4) Pass the Mental Health Parity Act. Sure I might be a bit biased about this one, but I'm not the only one who benefits. US employers lose more in worker productivity due to untreated depression than to almost any other single health issue.

5) Increase the pay rate for all active duty military personnel. Members of Congress make about $170,000 a year. As noted previously, they generally work three days a week while Congress is in session. On a normal day, they don't have to be at the office at 5:00 in the morning--that's what their chief of staff is for. They also don't generally have people shooting at them.

6) Exempt active duty US military personnel from the federal income tax. Currently, members of the armed forces do not pay federal income tax on income earned while they are serving in a combat zone. Even with housing allowances, hazardous and special duty pay, many military families have a hard time supporting a family. If we want to make this a more attractive career option, maybe we should make the pay and benefits a little more attractive.

I'll keep adding as I think of more. Feel free to send your own suggestions!

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