Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

November 12, 2013

WE THE PEOPLE: The wolves at the door

By Clyde Ussery
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — “Make yourself sheep and the wolves will eat you.” — Benjamin Franklin

A representative government can only work if representatives are loyal to their constituents. The reason we are being ill-served by a Congress that is less popular than head lice is because the loyalties of its members are to corporations that have no allegiance to America. They should, as someone suggested, be required to wear uniforms like NASCAR drivers so we can identify their corporate sponsors. Too many are willing to violate the oath sworn on the Bible they claim to revere in order to protect the interests of those who bought their seats for them. The result is that corporate profits are extremely healthy, but democracy is on life-support.

Democracy cannot survive if there is no conversation between the people and those who are supposed to represent them. If you have been off the planet or too engrossed in “American Idol” to notice what is happening, there is a good place to start catching up. Attend what is billed as a “town hall meeting” with your Congressperson. Do not confuse this event with the unscripted, freewheeling town hall meetings you may have attended in the past. The ones where voters stood up and asked elected officials any questions they wanted to and felt free to express their own opinions.

What you are more apt to find, when the Congressperson and her entourage roll into town, is a controlled event with a mostly hand-picked audience and screened questions. The Congressperson will be kept at a safe distance from voters, and your chances of actually talking to her are slim to none. She will stick to the party script, heavy on talking points and light on specifics. (Woe be to the conservative politician who veers off into the weeds, for his path forward will be rough and snaky, and his political days will be numbered.) The rush to get the Congressperson on the road again makes you feel like it was just a drive-by on the way to a more important destination.

Congressional members create the illusion of representation by distracting us with bogus issues and lies, and are seldom challenged by the news media. So they win another term to feed at the government trough, and we pick up the tab. The 2014 calendar for the House just released by Eric Cantor shows members will work 113 days next session, down from a whopping 126 days this year. What a deal: $174,000 a year, great benefits, awesome retirement plan, plus the opportunity to take bribes. All that for working less than four months a year doing nothing.

For democracy to work there must be a free flow of information, and we cannot communicate with these sold-out servants of corporations. We can either stand up and fight for democracy or keep our heads down and go along. It has been my experience that ignoring a problem does not make it go away. I believe in the power of the American people to fight and win even though we are up against an unlimited supply of corporate money. But we can’t win without accurate information, and that takes work. Politicians depend on us not knowing and not being willing to learn. It is time to surprise them.