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'Business as Usual' Congress Just Doesn't Get It

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

At a time of extraordinary sacrifice and personal loss, the American people have rallied together and sucked it up to get through a historically unprecedented moment of crisis. Wouldn't it be nice if our elected representatives in Congress and the Senate could do the same?

As we heard of each outrageous, pork-laden amendment to the financial lifeline bill that just passed the U.S. Senate, we were told that this was "business as usual" in Congress. "This is just what they do," the cynical political observers explain. And, they're right. This is what they do.

Congressmen and senators take any opportunity they can, even an unprecedented national disaster like the government-mandated economic shutdown in reaction to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, to spend millions and millions of your money on their favorite projects. "Don't be naive," we are told. This is just how they operate on an average day in Washington, D.C.

Ok. Fine. But, here's the thing... These are not average times.

Every single American has been compelled to make sacrifices due to the unprecedented health crisis we are constantly lectured about, couldn't Congress do the same, just this once?

None of us are operating under a "business as usual" protocol, why must we accept Congress wasting money that we don't have because it's "business as usual" for them?

"CEO's will be prohibited from giving themselves bonuses," senator after senator sanctimoniously intoned on the floor of the Senate and cable news hits over the past three days. And yet, those same senators just unanimously voted $25 million for congressional "salaries and expenses" that, they claim, will be directly related to the coronavirus.

"No stock buy-backs with this money," they demanded while they funneled tens of millions of dollars to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting because Sesame Street is in New York and Oscar the Grouch contracted COVID-19 or something.

"No government official to their families should benefit from this bill," they scream while sending $25 million to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts so they can see the national tour of "Hamilton" in a luxury theatre.

Listen, I get it. There's nothing new here. Most cynics recognize that if only 10 percent of a big monster spending package like this is objectionable, then it's a win for everyone. That's just the way things are. 

But we are all being asked to change our lives. Why can't Congress?

We were all working our butts off. We were selling, we were buying, we were recreating, we were hiring, we were working. We were doing what Americans do best: We were kicking tail and driving the U.S. economic engine into the stratosphere. And then, we were ordered to stop. We were ordered to stop by the government.

Americans aren't sitting around waiting for "free money" from the government. We know better. There's no such thing as "free money" from the government. We don't want it. We just want to get back to work. In the meantime, the government must throw us a lifeline to help get us through this thing.

But, the fact that they saw this emergency lifeline as an opportunity to spend like it's just another day at the candy store tells us that they just don't get it. And probably never will.

Larry O'Connor hosts two separate radio programs on WMAL in Washington DC and on KABC in Los Angeles. He has a daily, 30-minute podcast covering U.S. Politics and featuring interviews with newsmakers and pundits on the biggest stories of the day. Subscribe here.


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