Congress members on Capitol Hill. Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

Congress doesn’t work for you

The United States Congress is one of the most universally despised institutions in the U.S. According to a 2021 Gallup poll, Congress’ approval rating is a dismal 25%, and in December 2020, it was 15%. Needless to say, it sucks. Unless you are in the 1% of top earners in the country or you’re part of the upper class, Congress doesn’t work for you.

A recent report showed since the pandemic began, the 1% has seen an increase in wealth by 400%—over one trillion dollars. Americans as a whole lost over a trillion in purchasing power during this same period of time.

Congress consistently capitulates to the wealthiest Americans, especially their donors—for example, Ted Cruz,  the fiscally conservative senator representing Texas, helped to manipulate the CARES Act aid program to get $35 million for Dan and Farris Wilks, a pair of Texas billionaire fracking brothers and major Cruz contributors.

The Wall Street Journal reported according to corporate records, the Wilks brothers collected the windfall even though their businesses were busy buying stakes in six other fracking companies. Clearly, they needed the funds.

This kind of corruption is not unique. Records show that days before being elected to represent Colorado’s 3rd District in Congress, Rep. Lauren Boebert paid off the last of nearly $20,000 in state tax liens that had accumulated on her restaurant since 2016.

Between August 2016–February 2020, Shooters Grill, the gun-themed restaurant Boebert owns, amassed eight liens for “nonpayment of unemployment insurance premiums,” according to records from the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder’s office.

In a congressional financial disclosure statement Boebert filed as a candidate in January 2020, she reported Shooters Grill had posted a net operating loss of $242,347 in 2018. Boebert also disclosed liabilities that included a “business loan” valued at between $15,000–50,000.

In May 2020, public health officials in Garfield County revoked Shooters Grill’s license after Boebert repeatedly opened the restaurant for in-person dining in defiance of state and local coronavirus restrictions. The license was reinstated two weeks later, and Shooters Grill was allowed to reopen under the condition that it followed certain restrictions, including operating at 50% capacity.

Boebert’s campaign finances came under scrutiny this week when The Denver Post reported on reimbursements she made to herself, first cited by Colorado Polls, to cover certain travel costs when she was a candidate. Her campaign finance disclosures to the Federal Election Commission indicate she claimed “mileage” reimbursements of $1,059.62, reported on March 31, and $21,199.52, reported on Nov. 11.

Is it a coincidence that the amount she reimbursed herself late last year nearly matches what she owed on her restaurant? I don’t think so. This is yet another example of the blatant corruption members of Congress (or Congressional candidates) engage in all the time.

Despite all of this, she remains on Congressional committees, making laws that affect the entire nation. Members of Congress are paid nearly $200,000 a year, paid with taxpayer money, while making decisions about how to spend that same money. Do they spend it to benefit ordinary people? No.

Consider the COVID-19 stimulus package from December. Congress waited all the way until the end of the year to pass another relief package, this time with only $600 checks—sent out based on 2019 income!—and only $300 a week in extra unemployment benefits, after the CARES Act guaranteed $1,200 direct payments and $600 a week unemployment back in March! Does it make any sense at all for Congress to wait nine months to pass another relief package, only to cut its benefits in half? Would a Congress that truly cared about working people write that kind of bill?

All of this happened at a time when people were literally starving across the country. Feeding America’s 181 food banks distributed nearly 57% more food in the third quarter of 2020 than the year before. They saw an overall 60% increase in food bank users during the pandemic, 40% of which were first-timers. People in this country were in need, and all Congress could muster was a meager $600 check and half the unemployment payments in March?

This all illustrates a bigger picture, whether it’s Ted Cruz’s blatant corruption, Lauren Boebert’s manipulation of campaign finances or Congress’ shockingly lowball December relief bill. Congress doesn’t work for you. It never has.