The latest COVID-19 relief bill finally passed the U.S. Senate over the weekend.
It will now go back to the House of Representatives for reconciliation and then to the president to sign.
This relief bill will become law split pretty much along party lines. That troubles me deeply.
I find myself wondering why some in Congress and in the state legislatures have such difficulty helping 331 million people recover financially from a devastating pandemic?
I find myself noting that these elected representatives have no problem trusting us to pay our taxes. They have no problem asking us to pay our taxes. We seem to be smart enough to do that.
However, when a crisis befalls the nation, some who feel appointed to watch the nation’s purse don’t want significant numbers of our people to receive financial help.
So, right now, around this nation, families are suffering economically because of the pandemic.
It does not matter at this point who is to blame for this economic carnage, that is rather an issue for the ballot box. What does matter is that our government should have moved with all haste to do what it could to extend a helping hand.
Both parties came together on the previous two bills, but this time only one party is working to further mitigate the financial strains caused by the pandemic and to stimulate a struggling economy.
The other party did everything in its power to slow down moving this relief package through Congress, knowing full well that it would eventually pass.
I put a lot of blame on Senators who knew the bill would pass but could not look beyond their party loyalty to see a greater loyalty to Americans in profound need of financial help.
Is this a perfect bill? No.
Will this be a final step to returning the nation’s people and economy back to where it was pre-COVID? Probably not.
However, it is a step that needed to be taken, a bill that needed to pass, and aid that needs to be speeded to those in the community of this nation who are struggling the most.
I also found myself wondering about the ongoing prejudice toward the poor and the working poor. Those who hold the purse strings of government spending seem to have notions about poverty that are as factual as conspiracy theories.
The Stockton, California, experiment points us to truth about the poor and the working poor far more accurately than one will hear in the halls of Congress or state legislatures.
I have lived the larger part of my adult life in Texas, aware of the ongoing state legislative efforts to suppress government support for the poor and the mentally ill. In some ways, these folks are treated much like lepers in ancient history.
The irony, which is not lost on me, is that most legislators have no significant experience with the poor or even the mentally ill beyond seeing them as they pass them by on their way to find ways to deprive them of basic resources.
You won’t find many taking time to actually go to a homeless camp and talk to the people who are there.
You will not find most walking the block of poor neighborhoods, or subsidized housing because they don’t want to, they don’t have to, and they feel they have nothing to learn about people they know nothing experientially about.
It gets worse.
When people whose experience and knowledge come to testify regarding these people, legislators don’t listen. In some ways, legislative hearings are a farce.
The bottom line is that when experts with extensive knowledgeable of the issues and people directly impacted by pending legislation come and testify, elected officials often gather that information and then do as they please.
I cannot imagine how many hundreds or thousands of hours have been spent trying to get the Texas Legislature to see the poor, the working poor, the mentally ill, the homeless and those struggling with food insufficiency. Yet, biennium after biennium nothing changes.
There are no more community dollars for the mentally ill. No more support for the working poor. No more money for Medicaid or for those who provide services for those who have Medicaid. Criminal justice reform moves, if at all, at glacial speed.
I find myself wondering what it would take for our state’s leaders to see all who live within Texas and to recognize that they all have a responsibility to them all, not just those who can contribute to their next election campaign fund.
I suspect there are similar circumstances in states across the nation.
Sadly, this myopia has everything to do with people who can do nothing for those who exercise power. That is what it comes down to.
Politics has become transactional – or perhaps more transactional. If you are in the unfortunate position of offering nothing to political leaders, then they cannot see you or will not help you.
What would it take for our government at the local, state and national level to truly see and work on behalf of the poor, the working poor, the mentally ill, the homeless? What would it take?
Put simply: money and votes.
A private practice counselor working with veterans and survivors of trauma. Previously, Chancellor served four churches in Texas for 33 years, then ran a Mental Health Department of Alan B. Polunsky Maximum Security prison which houses death row.