Dear elected officials: Stop the infighting and do your jobs

November 28, 2022 5:45 am

We should not continue to let our elected officials focus on their private agendas, personal vendettas, or created and fake issues at the expense of working on real ones that need solutions (Photo by Pict Rider/iStock Images).

There are any number of takeaways one can glean from the recent midterm elections. But one that should be getting more attention is that the public is sick and tired of bitter bickering and obsession with false issues at the expense of the real ones that need fixing.

As Congress and state legislatures around the country reconvene in January, there are many issues whose solutions need collaboration and compromise.

Yet despite running on fixing some of those areas, many elected officials seem to have already forgotten what they promised voters and instead are preparing to continue the destructive partisan discord.

For example, before taking office in January, key incoming members of Congress after claiming if elected they would work on certain issues — reduce inflation, fight crime, address the border crisis — are now saying their top priority will be investigating and demonizing the opposing party.

Enough of revenge politics.

What about getting ready to govern?

We do not have to look far and wide to know what the Congress and state legislatures need to work on.

Let’s begin with the need to finally pass sweeping legislation to increase the paltry $7.25 per hour federal minimum wage. Efforts to increase the minimum wage still linger in Congressional dysfunction.

While Missouri’s minimum wage is $11.15 per hour, it is still inadequate, and many employers are not required to pay it.

Lawmakers can see the need to increase their own wages while many Americans can barely earn enough to sustain a decent living for their families let alone battle rising food and gas prices.

Increasing the minimum wage could help many Americans keep up with the cost of living and deal with inflation.

What about rampant poverty in front of our very eyes?

There have been so-called wars on poverty from time to time, yet the poverty rate is still unacceptable in a country that flaunts that it is among the riches and strongest in the world.

Poverty has a devastating effect on our children.

In Missouri alone it was recently reported that nearly 350,000 children continue to languish in the crevices of poverty because they are in families with incomes that are too low for them to receive child tax credit benefits.

The family is too poor to receive help that other families do who are not caught in the poverty nexus. Does that make any sense?

The latest data show the national child poverty rate is 16.9%, significantly higher than the overall poverty rate of 12.8%.

Too many children are caught in a catch-22 when it comes to poverty in states across the country.

What are state legislatures and Congress doing to reduce poverty among the most vulnerable and most dependent among us?

Then there is the proverbial unfair income tax system. The struggle to enact tax reform that will ensure that there are fair taxation policies, where everyone just pay their fair share, seem to always get defeated.

In the meantime, the rich continue to get richer, and big corporations still evade paying their fair share or any taxes at all.

Most Americans want the rich and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.

But the list of issues and problems that we need our legislators to focus on is long that impact the lives of millions of Americans every day.

In addition to enduring working for unlivable wages, wading through poverty and carrying the burden of paying unfair taxes, too many of our fellow Americans are still falling victim to gun violence, can’t find affordable housing, linger in homelessness, lack access to needed healthcare services and can’t access an affordable college education.

There are other contentious and consequential issues, where the public has expressed its desires, like whether to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, or continue our support of Ukraine.

But who is paying attention to the people’s needs and wishes?

We should not continue to let our elected officials focus on their private agendas, personal vendettas, or created and fake issues at the expense of working on real ones that need solutions.

As voters, our work has only begun.

We need to be thinking of the most effective ways to hold elected officials accountable.

Democracy is a family affair. We must be invested and remain engaged to ensure needs are being met. We also can’t forget that keeping our domestic house in order is what has the greatest power we can use abroad to maintain our influence as a world leader.

Voters have made it clear they want America to do what is in the country’s best interest at home and abroad.

Some bickering and disagreements are natural. Real and warranted investigations can and should be launched and brought to their factual conclusions. But neither should be allowed to be all-consuming at the expense of getting needed things done.

Coming together to do the jobs they are elected to do should be the priority.

Beginning with new the new year, we should accept nothing less.

What can we do to ensure that?

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis

Janice Ellis has lived and worked in Missouri for more than three decades, analyzing educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. Her commentary has appeared in The Kansas City Star, community newspapers, on radio and now online. She is the author of two award-winning books: From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream (2018) and Shaping Public Opinion: How Real Advocacy Journalism™ Should be Practiced (2021). Ellis holds a Ph.D. in communication arts, and two Master of Arts degrees, one in communications arts and a second in political science, all from the University of Wisconsin.