What happened to the idea of public service?

Was it always such a quaint concept, the idea that elected officials are supposed to serve and represent the people who elected them?

It strikes me as odd that today the notion of representation barely seems to enter the conversation when journalists write about Congress.  All that matters is how members of Congress (and the president) are positioning themselves for their re-election campaigns.  In other words, the cynicism that’s rife on Capitol Hill is rarely called into question by a political pundits who love the same game — a game called “inside the Beltway” that leaves the rest of us out, setting records for poverty or staring at more months of unemployment.

So is it really surprising  when a new poll shows that Congressional support has shrunk to 12 percent, tying the lowest level ever recorded?  To me, not at all.  If anything, I’m surprised the support is so generous.

The last few months have been so mind-numbing it’s hard to even comment on them. Today I’ll settle for a few questions:

Why should anyone support incumbents in either party if their only interest is in getting re-elected?

If these representatives are truly interested in anything else, why don’t we ever hear their rhetoric — or, even better, see action or attempted action that demonstrates that concern?

How can members of Congress justify their salaries when it seems about all they’ve done this year — and just barely — is to keep the government running, on two cylinders?

What happened to the notion of government for the people?

How can the rich be so greedy, or so stupid, as to want to hoard everything they have, sending their surrogates — the GOP — to ensure that protection?

I mean come on. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans have accumulated as much wealth as the “lower” 90 percent of the population? What’s that about?  Don’t they understand that their refusal to pay a penny more in taxes and share an iota of their wealth slows the entire economy, including the pace at which they can get richer?

Just how bizarre has the level of political discourse in this country become?  Paul Krugman captured that well today when he referenced a scene at the last Republican debate for president.

At that CNN-Tea Party debate, candidate Ron Paul was asked whether a 30-year-old man who has failed to buy health insurance but needs six months of intensive care should be allowed to die. The crowd shouted “yeah.”

Wow. Nasty place, America in 2011. I wonder when we’ll begin bringing the lions back to fight prisoners in the public square.  In a country so short of all kinds of bread, the circus just may be all that’s left.


About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at www.jerrylanson.com. My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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