Monday, December 23, 2013

The Mean-ing Of The Season

As we get ready to start our annual holiday break Tuesday afternoon, like many media organizations, we've been trying to look back at the past year.

It's been a record year for Congress, though not in a good way. As Steve Benen pointed out clearly on Friday, the 113th Congress in the first half of its session, passed the least number of bills since the end of World War II. As Benen also noted, the meager few bills they passed weren't good.

In cae you'd forgotten Congress - specifically, the Republicans in Congress, led by their extremist tea party faction - also shut down the federal government this year, while almost blowing up the world's economy by not raising the debt ceiling. Republican action not only didn't achieve their initial stated goal, to stop the implementation of Obamacare, but it also ended up costing the government - meaning taxpayers - $24 billion while hurting the economy.

Meanwhile, bills that Congress has routinely passed during other highly partisan sessions, like the Farm & Food bill, never got approved by both chambers before Senators and Congresspersons high-tailed it out of DC. The long-term unemployment extension bill also never got passed.  That means instead of the bare minimum of assistance, millions of unemployed Americans are getting a lump of BS and and a brush-off from Congress at Christmas that smacks of Ebenezer Scrooge.

As Timothy Egan wrote in the New York Times over the weekend, this misguided treatment of America's poor, mostly by Republicans, has - just like their pointless shutdown, and empty debt ceiling threats - proven only their arrogance, ignorance, hypocrisy, and smallness of spirit.

In short, instead of working together to make America and the world a better place, Congressional Republicans this year have made America a meaner, less productive, less worthwhile place to live and do business. What's worse is that most of those members of Congress have also screwed over veterans, the poor, and anyone they don't agree with, in exchange for their own perceived political benefit.

In truth, most Republicans in Congress - and not a few Democrats - reminded us this year of a young woman who lost her job over the weekend.

Justine Sacco was, up until this weekend, the senior director of communications at corporate media giant IAC. As she boarded a plane to South Africa, she tweeted out a vile disgusting message that would have made any ignorant racist proud. "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!" read Sacco's comment. As she travelled the Atlantic, on a flight without wireless internet, she obviously was not working much, enjoying her position of privilege. The internet and Twitter, however, were both working very well, and by the time Sacco landed in South Africa, her tweet had gone viral and she was without a job.

No matter what Ms. Sacco said in her apology, the cruelty and arrogance of her initial action spoke volumes - both about her own attitude of entitlement and about how some Americans see themselves in relation to the rest of the world.

We hope that in 2014, Americans remember those members of Congress in 2013 whose actions mirrored those of Ms. Sacco. Hopefully, Americans will follow the same course of action with those selfish Congressmembers as Ms. Sacco's now-former employer did with her.

Of course, it's unlikely that next Christmas, when the tables are reversed, that we will leave a lump of metaphorical coal in the stockings of those soon-to-be former members of Congress without legitimate job prospects, as they're doing to the unemployed this year.

After all, some of us really do know the meaning of the season - generosity, forgiveness, peace, and joy.