Rep. Lee on Congress: It's Time the People Saw Who These People Are

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-13th District, CA) Talks SOTU


Rep. Barbara Lee (D-13th District, Calif.)

There's a 78-million-person-gap going on in the U.S.A. and it needs to be bridged soon or the S in U.S.A. will stand for Shell, as in the United Shell of America.

The number is not random. According to Forbes 111 million and change are expected to watch this year's Stoner Bo... , eh, Super Bowl Sunday February 2. Thirty-three million and change watched President Obama's State of the Union Address on Tuesday, January 28, 2014.

Thus, 78 million more people will tune in to a football game, many to watch the commercials of the one-percent's companies, to watch an athletic few of the 3 million-plus millionaires in the United States play sports for huge profits than watched our president lay out an agenda for the future of our country.

That's just plain sad.

Because had they watched, what they would have seen would have been at times appalling, other times very telling about the behavior of the people allegedly leading this country.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA, 13th District) knows; she watched the SOTU (State of the Union) intently too and echoed the sentiments of the President about the nation and her own 13th District of Calif. which includes Alameda County (Oakland, Calif.).

"I love my community," she told me on my daily Karel Cast also for KGO Radio. "And like the nation, we have problems of unemployment, people living below the poverty line, needing education, job training, higher wages, we all have issues around public safety, the problems facing our communities are the same as those facing the nation as a whole," she added.

If you were one of the 33 million plus that tuned in, it would be easy to believe that half of the House was unable to stand up at all. As President Obama laid out plans (he laid out over 40 plans in his last SOTU, got a total of two finished) for the upcoming year and beyond, every time issues of equality for women in the workplace; higher wages for workers; continuing unemployment insurance extensions for those without jobs; issues facing so many of Americans -- when those issues came to the podium, one side sat on their hands, silent. When issues of lowering corporate taxes, or of course, war, were brought up, those same people rose to their feet. It appeared from the traditional show of applause or rising for issues that when it came to matters that involved the working poor, the very poor, the clinging middle class, women, gays or the climate, over half of the House wasn't interested. At least not enough to get up, clap or let their faces show.

Rep. Lee noticed as well.

"That's who these people are, and it's time people wake up as to who they truly represent and what their agenda truly is," she enthusiastically began. "When you look at who these Tea Party Republicans represent, they support oil companies, they support farm subsidies, and they support lower corporate taxes but I must say just look at how we pay for low wage jobs to the tune of $243 billion dollars. That's how much taxpayers support many corporations who provide low wage jobs, jobs in the $7.25 range for people, where the workers have to rely on food stamps, Medicare and Section VIII just to survive and then Tea Party Republicans want to turn around and cut subsidies and lifelines for people who can hardly survive to give tax breaks to these very companies!," she exclaimed.

The speech by President Obama was eloquent and inspirational, but will it bear fruit? Can Rep. Lee's group, the Congress, can her House act?

"We are in the middle of an obstructionist Congress," Lee answered. "That says it all. The Tea Party Republicans let pass two items on the President's agenda last year so I'm please he'll be taking some Executive action to begin to get things done on what he can," she finished.

I wondered aloud, should a congressperson be happy that a president is going to take executive action, since it is Congress that is supposed to pass laws and make sure the President doesn't get too out of hand (balance of powers and all)?

"Yes, it is the place of Congress, Karel, but when you look at what has happened with the Tea Party Republican Congress, when they came in with Mitch McConnel the stated goal was to make this President a one-term President, but he's not, he overwhelming won a second term, so now they're trying to stop anything from passing," she exclaimed, a sense of frustration rising up.

As for getting things done this year?

"I'm optimistic on comprehensive immigration reform for the upcoming year," she continued. "Republicans are beginning to talk about it and communities of color are pushing them to do the right thing and the pressure is being felt; as for the minimum wage, I'm not so sure. One thing is certain in the communities at large, Republican or Democrat, people want the minimum wage raised. And like you, Karel, I think it should be a living wage, but at least a $10.10 would be a start for people to take care of their families. Will it happen? It can..." she stated.

Income inequality is the one of the largest issues facing the United States and the world, as evidenced by all the information coming out around the economic summit in Davos, Switzerland. The space between the haves, or the 12-million-plus millionaires, and the have nots, the 7.3-billion-rest-of-the-world, is breaking records on so many fronts. How can a nation ever address such a major problem if its Congress can't even agree on a living and/or a minimum wage for its people?

Many cities, like San Francisco, are seeing this rift cause civil unrest and upset. From the Google Protests of the recent months in San Francisco, to the city requiring the Google Bus to pay to use the city's bus stops; or the recent report that rents in the city of San Francisco are three times higher than the national average, the signs of a gentrified city of San Francisco and nation are becoming visible everywhere.

"Gentrification is my district, the 13th district has occurred, is occurring and will continue to occur, so it is no just in San Francisco," Rep. Lee explained. "And it's increasing. We need affordable housing policies, incentives for people who are low wage workers or middle-income employees to be able to live in communities such as mine. Rents are going up, home prices are going up. We need policies that are fair and equitable so people can stay in their houses. When homes have been abandoned or lost to foreclosure and left, we need to make sure that residents can get jobs renovating those homes and then renting them to people in the district. So there are ways to help mitigate some of these losses," she concluded.

"We have to take back the House. We must. Nancy Pelosi led this Country away from the brink of disaster. Under Democratic Leadership we have set forth programs like Neighborhood Restoration Funds to address what we were just speaking on. Remember this is an election year. People have to get very political. Send emails, send letters, go sit in their offices. Get involved. Stay the course, stay focused, and spread the message," she concluded.

Spreading the message of empowering Americans and making government functional would seem like an easy task. But when 78 million more people want to watch a corporate football game instead of one of the most complex and amazing games of all time, the game of the politics of running a country, it's an uphill battle for Rep. Lee, or anyone that wants Washington to actually become more functional, no matter the party.

Maybe Congress should be the half-time show.

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