ENDA and Governmental Power

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The states in gray have no state-level protection for LGBT employees. © Wikimedia Commons

For the first time ever, the Senate passed a piece of legislation that protects people from being fired based solely on their sexual orientation. There are multiple reasons to have mixed feelings about this news, the first being the fact that this is even an issue in 2013.

There are currently 29 states in the U.S. where you can be fired for being lesbian, gay or bisexual and 34 where you can be fired for being transgender. While there are workplace protections against firing someone for their skin color, gender, religious affiliation, age and health status, you can lose your job just for being perceived as LGBT. This sounds like a policy from 1913, not 2013. This shows that rampant homophobia still lingers in politics and that politicos are still more interested in their approval ratings than giving people equal workplace protection.

Another reason why this is sad news is because while the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has passed the Senate, House Speaker John Boehner won’t bring it up for a vote in the House. It’s completely ridiculous that one person has the power to make the decision if something gets called up or not. Theoretically, if a piece of legislation gets enough support in both the Senate and the House to pass, Congress should both be allowed to vote on it. Realistically, even if Boehner were to bring this up for a vote, it’s unlikely that it would pass the Republican-controlled House.

It’s gross that someone can be fired for being gay. I think that’s a common consensus, at least with people who have some form of reasoning skills. What’s even worse, though, is that our oligarchy government has become so bloated, corrupt and self-serving that they can’t do their jobs.

This 113th Congress passed only 22 bills in its latest session before they took off for a five-week break that began in August. That’s the lowest in U.S. history. To put things in perspective, the Washington Post reported the 112th congress passed 561 bills, which was the lowest up until now. In all honesty, Congress doesn’t do much of anything these days.

Congress gets every weekend off. In 2013, they did not have a single five-day workweek. They had 126 working days, leaving 239 days off that year. That’s well over half the year. Other perks? They get paid $174,000 per year, and they aren’t actually required to pass anything. In fact, it’s actually a law that their pay cannot be withheld. In theory, they could get zero bills passed in their session, then sit around and eat lead paint for the rest of the year. (Which is what I assume they’re doing, based on their track record.) When the government went into shutdown because the House GOP wanted to make a point, those politicians still got paid while government workers had to make ends meet without paychecks for over a month.

In other words, they’ve got the best job in the world. Congressional members don’t have to actually do anything, yet they still get exorbitant paychecks, health care and paid “fact-finding missions,” aka state-funded vacations. They also get free postage, meaning one congressperson can pretty much level a forest, print out campaign fliers and send them to an entire district while you subsidize the cost. Why wouldn’t someone want a job where you don’t have to meet goals, can literally let the place shut down, still get paid since no one can withhold your check from you, get top health benefits for you and your family, can write off any mail you send and get to fly around the country on the company’s dime? Anyone with an inkling of common sense can see that these benefits are exponentially self-serving and, frankly, abuses of power.

Our government has become an oligarchic club with intertwined kickbacks, revolving doors, embedded lobbyists, super PACs and apathetic legislators. This might seem like an extreme opinion, but looking at the facts given here makes me think that how we describe our politicians has become interchangeable with how we describe white-collar criminals. The stalling of ENDA is just one more example of how our current U.S. Congress is pretty much worthless.

What I would love to see is congressional leaders on minimum wage. If it’s good enough for constituents and the American people, shouldn’t public servants be earning the same wage? Let’s see how fast the minimum wage gets increased at that point. I’d love to see leaders held accountable for their actions. If the government goes into shutdown, the first thing that gets stopped is their pay. If I don’t do my job, I don’t get paid. It seems like a pretty simple concept, so why should it be any different for them? I’d love to see these “leaders” putting in a full workweek. I’d love to see them paying for their own mailing campaigns. There are lots of things that could be changed that would really improve our inept, money-pilfering Congress.

Something that I would love to see in the short term, and something that is much more realistic, is the passing of ENDA. It’s asking for basic workplace protections so LGBT people will not be fired for just being who they are. It’s not asking for LGBT people to work only 126 days of the year, or to get kickbacks or get paid if they don’t do their jobs, all of which Congress gets. What it’s asking for are just the basics of job protection, like the rest of non-governmental elites. I think it’s only fair to raise those protections up to the level of other American workers. Then it’ll just be two castes of people instead of three: our gross, abusive government and people who have to work for their money.

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