Washington, D.C.—To High and Far Away

By: Daniel Nardini

Every morning at 6:30 Steve makes his rounds delivering newspapers. The job does not pay much, but at least it is better than nothing. Although he should have retired, he cannot. He barely receives any Social Security, and with the bickering going on in Washington, D.C. he is not sure about even receiving that. His wife is ill and basically cannot work. They are living on welfare, and even then they are worried if they will get a check. His four children are working, but even with what money they are bringing in it still is not enough.

Then there is our neighbor Paula. A very kind and gentle old lady who raised a good family, she lives quietly with her husband on what small income they have. This includes Social Security. If their Social Security checks do not come they might get help from their children and grand-children, but even they are struggling in this bad economy. And then there is my wife’s fellow church member and good friend Charlotte. A wonderful immigrant lady who married a U.S. soldier 45 years ago, she owns a small farm that her husband left her after he died a few years ago. She has almost no family left. Charlotte had three children—two daughters and a son. Her two daughters were killed in an automobile accident. Only her son is left. Charlotte has one sister-in-law who tries to see and help Charlotte where she can. And Charlotte, like Steve and Paula, relies on her Social Security check.

These wonderful people my wife and I know have one thing in common—they do not have much money, life has not given them a good deck of cards, and they like so many Americans rely on their Social Security checks or some other form of federal and state assistance. But with the politicians in Washington, D.C. bickering over petty differences, and fighting like cats and dogs over partisan party lines, there is a real possibility that government might shut down or worse go into default. This will mean that people like Steve, like Paula, and like Charlotte will not receive the money they had paid into Social Security for decades.

It will mean they will have problems paying their bills on time or at all. It will mean they may have to cut down on food and eat less. This puts them at risk for falling victim to becoming sick more easily or worse needing to go to the emergency room if something really serious develops. It will mean that they may have to sell their furniture or valuable worldly possessions so they will have money to pay for medicines they may need. It means that they will be unable to enjoy their “golden years” and will probably have to work for what few dollars they can earn to supplement what little they have. And it means that they will be unable to repair their homes or have to take out what little money they have to pay for keeping their homes from falling apart or for hospital costs not covered by Medicare.

The politicians in Washington, D.C., even if the entire government shuts down, will not have to worry about any of this. The budget for maintaining their luxurious lifestyles is separate from the national budget they are fighting over. They have fully paid medical benefits. They will not have to worry about losing their pay even if they do not do their jobs. In fact, they can vote for a pay raise. They do not have to worry about paying for utilities or medicines they may need. They do not have to worry about their homes falling apart from neglect due to a lack of money, nor worry about having to eat less.

In other words, Washington, D.C. is a whole another America—one with abundance paid for by the American taxpayer. I have been to Washington, D.C., and you can tell who is a politician by their custom-made expensive business suits or, in the case of women, dresses. It is an America too high and too far away from where our neighbors and friends live. It is also an America that has no real understanding for the lives that Steve, Paula and Charlotte live. The sad reality is that these people have control of the national purse strings, and they decide how much money our neighbors and friends get. And at the end of the day, the politicians can go home in their expensive cars, can enjoy a good meal, and have all the luxuries of life the rest of us dream about. Steve, Paula and Charlotte will have to figure out how to live another day if the politicians do not do their job.

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