Remind Lawmakers of the Job They Have to Do

Terry Savage
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Posted: Dec 20, 2011 12:01 AM

Have you been rushing to get everything done this holiday season? Perhaps you're headed off to a vacation in warmer climes -- or maybe it's just getting prepared for a few days at home with your family. In either case, you know the feeling of trying to get everything done in the last few days.

But while you'll get all the important stuff at work finished because your boss is watching, Congress seems to have no such incentive. We, the people, are their boss -- and Congress couldn't seem to care less.

You won't be able to hide the year-end project under a stack of other stuff and leave work with a clean conscience. But members of Congress seem completely capable of postponing their real work for a couple of months while they go on vacation. Do they think we won't notice?

It took until Saturday to pass a year-end $1 trillion spending bill to keep the government operating. Perhaps the ultimate pressure of returning home to face the electorate finally got to them.

But they can't agree on extending the payroll tax cut.

And still up in the air is an extension of unemployment benefits and reimbursement rates for physicians who see Medicare patients -- two issues that have a real impact if they are not dealt with immediately.

Of course, part of this is the process of jockeying for political and public relations supremacy in an election year. Even projects that both sides agree would be good for the economy are held hostage to the process.

A pipeline that would create energy independence and thousands of jobs had been postponed until after the 2012 elections -- despite the fact that both laboring Americans and big business have reason to agree to its construction. Why this one pipeline -- when we have many thousands of miles of pipelines criss-crossing America?

This pipeline, which is a real economic issue, has been turned into purely a political football -- despite the fact that it benefits both sides of the aisle -- big business and blue-collar workers. That's because "green" organizations are big political contributors.

We've all felt the desire to procrastinate, despite the nagging feeling that accompanies that option. You know you should make smart financial decisions, but the overwhelming consequences of facing reality encourage you to delay.

For example, you know you should be making a list of your current outstanding credit card balances before you go shopping. But in the "holiday spirit," you go shopping first, and figure you'll tally up the consequences later when the bills come due.

In that same spirit, Congress rushes off to vacation, hoping to push the hard decisions into the New Year. And hoping we won't notice if they can announce something temporary.

It's time for the bosses -- us -- to speak up and force them to do the job that we're paying them to do. Here's how to make your voice heard, no matter what your take on the issues: 

Go to ContactingtheCongress.org. Then just fill in your address and ZIP code to be sent to the page with your U.S. representative and two senators. Click on each name, and you'll find a link to a "contact form." It takes only a minute to fill out that form with your name, address and e-mail and then a category for your comment.
 Then post a message to be sent directly to each of them.

It will take only a few minutes to contact each of your representatives. They may not listen to any one message, or reply with a pre-formatted e-mail -- but if we all send a similar message, the impact will be huge. Remember, you're paying each of our senators and representatives $174,000 a year -- not to mention health care and retirement benefits, and paid vacation!

Let's make sure we're getting our money's worth from each of them. The only way to do that is to remind them they owe us some attention to their job, just as our bosses demand of us. You'll have the final word at the ballot box -- but it can't hurt to remind them who's their boss. And that's The Savage Truth.

Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and is on the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. She appears weekly on WMAQ-Channel 5's 4:30 p.m. newscast, and can be reached at www.terrysavage.com. She is the author of the new book, "The New Savage Number: How Much Money Do You Really Need to Retire?" To find out more about Terry Savage and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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