GridlockAs my colleague Mark Garcia pointed out the other day, Congress is in the midst of a theatrical showdown which could well result in a government shutdown and might leave the federal government unable to pay its bills in mid-October, with all sorts of terrible consequences.

And it’s all for nothing. We know how this story must end. Eventually, Congress will pass the legislation needed to keep the federal government running and paying its debts, and the Affordable Care Act will not be repealed or defunded. But a lot of time will be wasted on empty theatrics, with possible serious damage to the economy while real problems go unaddressed.

So, Congress, let’s talk about what you’re not doing while absorbed in this nonsense. For example:

  1. What about jobs? With the recovery producing mostly low-wage, service sector jobs that can’t support a family, what are you doing to build an economy that creates good, career-path jobs to help rebuild our shattered middle class? What are you doing to build prosperity that all communities can share?
  2. Are you even thinking about housing anymore? Yeah, the broad numbers on home sales and housing starts are up, but many communities are still depressed by foreclosures and huge numbers of underwater mortgages. Others, like San Francisco, are seeing a warped, tech-fueled boom that’s displacing low-income renters without creating affordable homeownership opportunities for working class and even middle class folks. Do you think this is a problem? Do you even know it’s going on?
  3. Remember higher education? Politicians regularly pay lip service to the importance of higher learning, but no one is doing much about the ongoing cost and affordability crisis. Hello???
  4. When will you address our broken criminal justice system? Bad laws and skewed enforcement continue to cycle millions of people through our prison system, turning lives and families upside-down without ever solving the underlying problems. Now that our 40-year-plus experiment has shown pretty definitively that mass incarceration does little to prevent drug abuse but can ruin the lives of nearly everyone the system touches – disproportionately young men of color – are you willing to rethink this? Are you even thinking about it at all?
  5. What about immigration? Yeah, our failed immigration system is still there, with all the problems everyone knows about. When are you going to realize how much immigrants like Luis Liang have to contribute to our country, even if they don’t have papers?

Mark Twain once wrote, “I believe the Prince of Darkness could start a branch of hell in the District of Columbia (if he has not already done it), and carry it on unimpeached by the Congress of the United States.” Isn’t it about time you made at least a small attempt to prove him wrong?