As we come ever closer to the decision that will determine the make-up of the US government starting in January 2017, it is important to reflect on what we would like that government to do with its mandate. Perhaps Jesus' admonition that we "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" would seem an appropriate guideline.
How would we like that to be translated into action?
Let's consider the issue of guns. For the protection of themselves and their employees, Congress has banned guns on its premises, which includes offices, dining rooms, cafeterias, reception rooms, a prayer room, day care facilities, and gyms. Why shouldn't Congress be required to "do unto others"--their fellow citizens-- by passing a law which forbids the carrying of firearms into work places, restaurants, and other, similar, public places?
Health care is another matter on which Congress should be required to face its failure to "do unto others." Members of Congress enjoy a very generous set of health care benefits which includes not just policies for themselves and their families, for which they have to pay a portion of the costs, but access to doctors in the Congress which treat Members for free, and access to health care at military facilities at the same cost charged to members of the military. Why shouldn't Congress "do unto others"--their fellow citizens--by assuring that all are covered by affordable health care plans?
Retirement is another matter to which Jesus' standard should apply. The Congressional retirement system guarantees a pension after five years of service for House Members, and one six year term for Senators. The pensions are prorated depending on the retirees years of service and age. For example, House members can draw their pensions at age 62 after 5 years of service; age 50, after 20 years of service; any age after 25 years of service. Why shouldn't Congress be required to "do unto others" by addressing the scandal of employers breaking promises to employees as to the amount of pension benefits they are entitled to, and cease promoting the idea of privatizing Social Security, a change whose only beneficiary would be Wall Street?
Another very serious matter in which Congress should be required to "do unto others" involves the danger of nuclear war. If we do not want to enhance the threat of that catastrophe happening, then Congress should not induce other countries to strengthen their nuclear arsenals by our going forward with the announced plan to spend a trillion dollars over the next 30 years "modernizing" our nuclear arsenal. This is a case of "not doing to others" --threatening--what we would not want them to do to us.
Every Member of Congress traces the fact that they are American citizens to immigrant forebears. In many cases, their forebears, different from the prevailing stock, were treated with disdain, hatred, and discrimination. Yet, they have become leaders of the country, because their families had the chance to prove themselves. Let Congress "do unto others" by solving the problem of illegal immigrants with compassion, so that these latest diverse groups can, as their own forebears did, prove themselves to be good citizens capable of producing those who can become leaders of our country.
Congress has repeatedly passed laws that have enhanced the wealth of the wealthiest and made it possible for them and their families to enjoy all the privileges that money can buy: fine homes, the best health care, the most expensive education, tax free wealth passed on to their children, and anxiety free retirement. It is time for Congress to "do unto others" by guaranteeing a living wage for all Americans, health care for all, affordable housing that would end homelessness, and the ability of every eligible student to gain a college education.
And while Members of Congress enjoy good salaries, health care, free parking, travel and other benefits while they are in office, and seamless transitions into good jobs, should they choose to work after leaving office, millions of Americans are still either without jobs or cannot find full-time work sufficient to support themselves and their families. It is time for Congress to "do unto others" by providing the huge number of jobs that would result from enactment of both a long overdue infrastructure modernization program and a robust clean energy initiative.